The apostle John opens his gospel account with a bold declaration of the eternality, divinity, and creativity of the Word:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and apart from him nothing came into being that has come into being.John 1:1–3
In case there was any confusion as to who or what the Word is, the apostle quickly clarifies:
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for he existed before me.’”John 1:14–15
The Word became flesh. Divinity took on humanity. The eternal entered the temporal. The infinite, finitude. The transcendent condescended. This is the glorious mystery that is the incarnation and is (or should be) the centrepiece of Christmas.
But why is this doctrine significant? Well, as we prepare for Christmas 2020, here are three (of the many) reasons why it is a big deal.
It Revealed God to Humanity
Before the Word became flesh, God had shown himself through creation (Psalm 19:1–6) and through his word (Psalm 19:7–14). But when Jesus came as a man, the curtain was pulled back more fully.
God, after he spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in his Son … . And he is the radiance of his glory and the exact representation of his nature, and upholds all things by the word of his power.Hebrews 1:1–3a
It’s because of the above reality that Jesus could claim, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). In the incarnation, Jesus revealed God to humanity in a new and more perfect way.
It Made God Sympathetic to Humanity
We need to be careful here to avoid heresy because, obviously, God knows everything. But, the author of Hebrews celebrates the fact that, because Jesus came to earth and lived the life he did,
we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.Hebrews 4:15–16
Taking on flesh, being tempted yet unyielding, qualified Jesus as our High Priest, a mediator as sympathetic as he is eternal. This was made possible, at least in part, because of the incarnation.
It Made Redemption Possible for Humanity
If there’s one clear New Testament truth about the incarnation it’s that Christ came to save sinners. Or, in his own words, he came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that he might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.Galatians 4:4–5
Sin separates each and every person from an infinitely holy God (Romans 3:23) the cost of which is death (Romans 6:23).
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us” (Ephesians 2:4), even when we were lost in our sinfulness, sent his Son into the world, “that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Because our guilt was infinite, only an infinite being could pay that debt (see Hebrews 10:4). And because the cost of sin is death, only a finite being could pay that debt.
When the Word incredibly became flesh—when humanity was mysteriously added to divinity—both of the above criteria could be met. Therefore, it’s only in the Person of Jesus Christ, the unique God-Man, that sin can be atoned for, forgiveness realized, and reconciliation obtained.
And that makes the incarnation a pretty big deal.