A Christmas Story
The voice of God sliced through the shapeless void: “Let there be,” and there was. Colorful planets, gaseous stars, orbiting moons. Thunderous oceans, snow-capped peaks, pristine forests. Caribou, falcon, mantis. Orca, squid, barnacles. Minerals, particles, cells—all spoken into reality by the creative Word.
But on the sixth day, there would be no utterance. On the sixth day,
God would kneel, and from the soil he had spoken into being, sculpt his pièce de résistance. Slowly, with great care and expert skill, he would tenderly craft the first human—bone, organ, blood, skin—in his image. Then, when he was satisfied with the work of his hands, in the most intimate of actions, he would animate the soul of this #ImagoDei with his own breath.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
Humanity branded by Divinity. What a stunning thought.
Bestowed with dignity and intellect, Adam and Eve tended the earth and communed with God. As image bearers, their every thought and action imitated the Artist who gave them life. They planted, watered, pruned, and harvested with his skill. They observed, classified, and designated with his knowledge. They listened, spoke, and served with his love.
Until the day the darkness descended.
With one taste of the forbidden fruit, the Imago Dei became shrouded and crowded by a competing force. Rather than reflecting the glory of God, we now elbow our way through life, pursuing our own glory. The Creative Imitation still dwells in the recesses of our humanity, like a faded distant dream, but the sin-sullied Self shouts it down with its cavernous needs and tyrannical desires. We fail to recognize our own #dignity and the dignity of our fellow created beings. We have forgotten who we are and why we are here. All hope of remembering and returning to our created glory seemed lost. Until…
In a surprising plot twist, the voice of God returned, slicing through the darkness a second time.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
In the beginning, God knelt in the dirt and formed man in his image. At the incarnation, God bent low and took on human visage. In the Garden, God in spirit form came down and walked and talked with Adam and Eve. In the incarnation, God became second Adam, and walked and talked among us once again. In the Genesis of time, God’s love was displayed to humans in his provision for their every need. In the incarnation, Love cloaked itself in humanity to meet our ultimate need—reconciliation with our Creator.
God Bending Low
The #incarnation is heaven’s grand accommodation.
“At the heart of the Gospel is the glorious truth that God did not stay remote, inaccessible, up in heaven, beyond all human thought and imagining, but he so loved the world that the came to be in it, not as an abstract concept but as a living person.” Malcom Guite*
In his writings, C.S. Lewis often marveled at the reach of God to man.
“The Second Person in God, the Son, became human himself; was born into the world as an actual man—a real man of a particular height, with hair of a particular colour, speaking a particular language, weighing so many stone. 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 foetus inside a woman’s body.” **
God Lifting Up
But the incarnation is not only heaven’s grand accommodation. It is also humanity’s grand elevation. God could have chosen any path he desired to redeem his creatures. Why did he choose to “clothe his agape in the language of the body?”*** One reason I believe God took human form was to remind us of the Imago Dei lying dormant in his sculptures. Irenaeus of Lyons beautifully states,
“The glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God. For if the manifestation of God which is made by means of the creation, affords life to all living in the earth, much more does that revelation of the Father which comes through the Word, give life to those who see God.”****
Jesus is the recollection of our created purpose. In imitating, representing, and glorifying God, he reminded us who we are and why we are here. And then, through his death and resurrection, he made it possible to be reunited with our Creator in a full-circle return to the Garden.
“The Son is the image of the invisible God…for God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:15,19-20
This epic tale of Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration is not merely a theological treatise, or even a worldview. It is both of these, but it is also an invitation to join your story with this story. My story is reshaped by the Christmas story every time I hear it. I need to hear the retelling so I can remember my original design, recognize and mourn my sinful rebellion as the result of the Fall, rejoice in the Word made flesh who came to reconcile me to God, and anticipate the coming restoration when I will "know, just as I am fully known." (I Corinthians 13:12)
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see.
Hail the incarnate Deity.
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.
**from Mere Christianity
*** Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics
****Against Heresies, IV, 20, 7