The Paradox of the Incarnation


Years ago, Andrew Peterson wrote a song called Labor of Love. He describes the night Jesus was born from Mary’s perspective. Every time I hear that song, one line makes me cry. When I realize it’s coming, I work up my courage, take a deep breath and still can’t beat back that lump in my throat. He describes the Christ child as the baby in Mary’s womb who is the Maker of the moon. Although unborn, he is the author of the faith that makes mountains move. Whoa.

I think I lose it because of the paradoxical nature of the incarnation. God sent the Savior for mankind as an infant, born in a manger. The perfect, holy, and powerful King of the world lay helplessly in a dirty barn.

The Westminster Confession of Faith states that Jesus had “common human infirmities.” He was a normal human being in every way, but sinless. He was fully God, of course, but also fully human. The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary. Jesus was growing and developing inside of her, in a very real sense, like every other baby, even though he was spiritually unlike any other baby (Luke 1:35). Baby Jesus didn’t come out of the womb walking, talking, and already potty-trained. I don’t mean to sound irreverent here, but Jesus had to learn to be human, just like a regular child. He didn’t just act like a human; he was a human, able to sympathize with our weaknesses, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). He wasn’t like Clark Kent hoping not to be recognized as Superman. Jesus was like us. When he passed through the heavens and made himself nothing, he took on the likeness mankind (Phil. 2:7-8).

After he was born, Jesus probably had to learn to roll over, then crawl, and then walk, in that order. Someone had to teach him to talk. He had to understand, communicate, and handle his emotions without sinning. Have you ever thought about junior high Jesus? Again, I’m walking a fine line here: but Jesus wasn’t protected from the typical normal life. He experienced all of that awkward, yet quite normal, human development. I can also guarantee you that he didn’t escape childhood unscathed by cruelty. And yet, this child was the Creator of all things (Col. 1:15-18).  He was the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2).

When he scraped his knee, it bled and hurt. When he caught a virus, he got sick. For heaven’s sake, he might have been an introvert. Maybe he wasn’t a morning person, yet that was the only time he could get away to be with our Heavenly Father. Honestly, we can’t know. What we do know is that if it wasn’t sinful, it’s possible that it was part of Jesus’ human experience. He had the same common human infirmities that we do. This quite average Jewish male (Isa. 53:2) was seemingly born into anonymity and, yet, the world was turned upside down as Jesus entered it. The angels announced him, the shepherds worshiped him, and the kings brought him gifts.

Even if our culture has drifted away from the ideals that founded our country so many years ago, consider this: Christmas is still a national holiday in America and around the world. Maybe people don’t celebrate the actual incarnation and most of the songs on the radio have little or nothing to do with Jesus, we can’t deny the impact that his incarnation has made on our world. Even if the word “holiday” has replaced “Christmas,” people still know exactly what holiday we’re talking about.

All of human history is marked by the presence of Emmanuel. We still have a calendar that is virtually set by the life of our Lord Jesus. Today is December 17, 2018. Two thousand eighteen years since what? Two thousand eighteen years since the incarnation of our Lord Jesus. Historians have always known, as we do today, that our world is marked by this man. Even though his birth was celebrated only by his parents, a few shepherds, and a couple of kings, the angels couldn’t hold back. Time and space stood still at the incarnation of our Lord. On a silent night, with little adulation, Jesus’ birth put into motion a new world order.

I’m hoping throughout this season I will consider the Son of God who took on flesh for our sake. Would you join me? O come let us adore this humble, Shepherd-King who marked this day and every day to come as he makes all things new.

About the Author:

Sue Harris

Sue Harris serves the congregation at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church (Birmingham) as the Women’s Ministry Director. She has a passion for spiritual formation as she earned her Master of Arts degree in Biblical Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta in 2014. She served Mission to the World for nine years challenging PCA congregations in missions as well as serving missionaries on the field through encouragement, teaching and short-term teams. Previously, she spent 12 years as a college women’s basketball coach, earning her MBA at Texas Woman’s University.

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