The Meaning of Incarnation

In this season of Christmas, I thought it fitting to reproduce below the text of a "Speaking of Life" program with GCI President Joseph Tkach (click here to watch it on YouTube). Merry Christmas to the readers of this blog. --Ted Johnston

The Meaning of Incarnation 

by Joseph Tkach

As we celebrate our Savior’s birth, I wonder if we ever stop to consider what a great sacrifice Jesus made by becoming one of us? Here is how Paul describes it in his letter to the church at Ephesus:
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion (Philippians 2:5-8 MSG).
When theologians refer to the second person of the Trinity becoming human, they sometimes use the word “incarnation.” You’ve probably heard that word before, although most of us probably wouldn’t use it in everyday conversation. But do you know what it really means? No – it doesn't have anything to do with pink flowers, corsages or graduation dances. Incarnation comes from the word incarn, which rarely gets use today. It’s a medical term, used to describe the flesh that grows over a wound, allowing it to recover. Its archaic meaning is to heal, by covering with new flesh.

Do you see then, how incarnation is an ideal word to describe Jesus being born as one of us? It is how God fulfilled the original meaning of incarn. The Bible shows how we, the human race, have been mortally wounded by sin, and the wages – or what sin has earned us – is death. So Jesus came in the flesh, and his flesh covers our mortal wound. God comes among us in the form and in the weakness of humanity to bring healing to our weak and wounded bodies.

He did it willingly, but it was a sacrifice. Think about it. He had existed for eternity as the Lord of Creation. But now he was a helpless baby, unable to talk, to stand. He who had had all power was now dependent on his mother for everything. He got cold, he got hungry, he had his diaper changed. His glorious, divine existence had been exchanged for the comparative squalor of life as a human being. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis described it like this:
The Eternal being who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a fetus inside a woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.
Usually, when we think of Jesus’ sacrifice, we think of his crucifixion, which we remember oGood Friday. But the whole experience of becoming human was a great sacrifice. Let us remember that as we celebrate his birth.