“Familiarity breeds contempt,” says one old, tired cliché. I believe that familiarity can also breed other things, like complacency for example. I think this happens most often with truths, stories and events that we become over-exposed to. What eventually happens?
We tend to lose our sense of wonder and awe. When this happens, the extraordinary becomes commonplace. For some of us, a sermon on a subject so magnificent it should take our breath away, instead, creates heavy eyelids and eventually slumber.
Take the doctrine of the Incarnation for example.
The fact that the creator of all that we see and all that we are made a decision to vacate heaven for awhile and come down to earth and walk among us is, to me, the most awe-inspiring event that ever occurred. Space doesn’t allow me to go into detail about how this affects me, but suffice to say, I am overwhelmed.
We are all familiar with the nativity scenes depicting Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, wise men, shepherds, sheep, goats, donkeys and the like. It is through such art that we celebrate the Incarnation. However, I think just focusing on God’s incarnation in Jesus at Christmas is only part of the Greatest Story Ever Told.
You see, God began the incarnation long before Jesus was born and He continues that same incarnation into the present. Believe it or not, God incarnates now inside you and inside me.
Let me explain.
I am convinced that God planned His incarnation in advance. Further, I have come to believe that God’s entering into this physical world was not a one time occurrence. Instead, it was progressive.
Perhaps it started with His presence in the cloud and pillar of fire in the wilderness, and then became more solidified in the tabernacle. Once the Israelites had taken possession of the Promised Land, and began to coalesce as a stable society, God then had Solomon build a Temple and this became his earthly residence. In the most remarkable act of all, God then took on flesh and walked among us as Jesus Christ. After the completion of his mission and his ascension back into the heavenly realms, God’s next incarnation descended in the person of the Holy Spirit. Most remarkable of all, the Holy Spirit took up residence in each of us and now we, as the Body of Christ, are to carry on that incarnation in every breath that we take and every thing that we do. What an honor! Yet what a responsibility.
In a very real sense, we can say that we, as Christians, have a place of honor, blessing, and responsibility in God’s eyes. To be handed the reins of God’s unfolding plan of restoration on earth and tasked with carrying on the work of his Son is an honor beyond description. Few of us really pause and ponder just how incredible this is. If that’s not enough, hold on, because things become even more incredible. Through the indwelling of his Holy Spirit, God has gifted each of us with talents that will allow us, if honed and utilized, to be markedly successful in accomplishing our part in his work, whether great or small.
Recently, as I have reflected on my own life and how my concept of compassionate service has developed over the years, I became aware of the various definitions of service I have held in my heart. These concepts and definitions have usually reflected where I was in terms of my spiritual formation at the time, but they did all have one thing in common. That one common denominator was the principle of “manifesting the kingdom on earth.” Whenever I had to make a decision as to whether or not to become involved in a particular ministry or outreach, I first asked the question, “Does this activity have as its fundamental priority the establishment of kingdom principle in our world?” I still ask this question whenever we here at LifeBrook are considering launching a project, no matter how minor it might be.
Our place of honor, blessing, and responsibility comes with the territory as we accept Christ’s lordship in our lives. It is an essential part of the package. As Christians, we are given a mandate to change our world for the better. Many sincere believers these days feel we need to separate ourselves from the world because of its increasing lack of morality and values. Too many of us are building Christian cocoons and going into hiding. The bottom line is, we don’t want to get our hands dirty.
I wonder what would have happened had Christ had followed this tendency. Chances are he would have never left the sanctuary of heaven. Even if he did, it is doubtful he would have stooped to being born in a manure stained animal stall, surrounded by bleating sheep and braying donkeys. It is doubtful that he would have sent his angels to shepherds to announce his arrival. I think you get the picture here. Just as our Lord washed his disciples dusty, rank feet, we, too, are to get down and get dirty.
Using Christ as our example, what is it that we are called to do in terms of continuing his incarnation? The concept is simple, really: we are to give flesh to grace.
© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved