Imitating the Incarnation | Sojourners

Imitating the Incarnation

Evangelical theology is essentially a theology of the cross. Like the apostle Paul we Christians today should be able to say that we know nothing but the cross and glory in nothing but the cross (1 Corinthians 2:3; Galatians 8:14). The cross is without doubt the center of the New Testament message. Yet in our correct emphasis on the atonement we sometimes neglect the incarnation. Similarly, we concentrate on Jesus as Savior, but do not sufficiently heed the insistent New Testament summons to follow Jesus the example.

So let me explore with you some of the biblical references to the Incarnation and some of the ways we are exhorted by the apostles to imitate the Incarnation. Perhaps the title offends you. For of course the Incarnation was entirely unique. It is utterly impossible, literally speaking, for us to be "made flesh." For we are not the Eternal Word, and in any case we are flesh already. Nevertheless, there are principles implicit in the Son's great stoop we call the Incarnation, which we are told to copy.

"She gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger.... And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. And they...found...the babe lying in a manger" (Luke 2:7, 12, 16). This deliberate repetition of the familiar Christmas phrase "wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger," almost as a refrain in the narrative, should arrest our attention afresh. The baby in the cattle trough was a "sign," the angel said, an identification sign. Not just to identify for the shepherds the object of their search, but also to identify for us what kind of a God the living God is.

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