The Miracle of Incarnation

[Note: The lyrics that follow come from the song Emmanuel, God With Us, which can be found on the Point of Grace CD entitled A Christmas Story. They are written by Nathan and Christy Nockles.]

She lit a candle in a downtown cathedral
Quietly confessing
Counting on a blessing
She looked as if he had nowhere to go
I cound see her weeping
Hands together hoping
You would hear

The incarnation of Jesus was not only unabashedly political, announcing a change in the order of things in this world. It was also a miracle. And the miracle of the incarnation is not simply that something happened a long time ago which was really warm and fuzzy and made a lot of Shepherds and Wise Men feel good. It is also a miracle that continues today.

The word “Emmanuel” means, simply, “God with us.” To speak that name, therefore, is to declare that God is here, in this world, among us.

This is the time of year
We hold our families near
But God let us be a friend to the hurting

Jesus has now ascended to heaven, of course. He no longer walks the Judean countryside as he did two thousand years ago. But there is a sense in which “Emmanuel” continues to walk the earth.

Before he was crucified, Jesus made a promise to his disciples – a promise that even after he was gone from the earth – he would continue to live within them. “Remain in me,” he promised, “and I will remain in you.”

The incarnation, it seems, was to continue in the lives of Jesus’ followers.

I moved in closer just so I could see her face
Maybe she was a mother
Someone’s only daughter
Her silver hair shimmered like the snow
Christmas bells were ringing
Now beside her kneeling I asked her name

Much later, Paul the apostle would pick up on this same theme in many of his letters. We are not merely a religious order that is trying to do something that God tells us to do, he reminded the Christians of his day, we are ourselves the body of Christ – the very continuing presence of Jesus in the world.

(And she said)
This was the time of year
I head my family near
But they’ve all gone
And I have been so lonely

Perhaps, then, to believe in the incarnation of Jesus – to truly embrace it as a thing of beauty and hope and joy and peace – is to also, in a sense be the incarnation of Jesus – to continue what he began – to abide in him and to offer something of who he is to the people that are around us.

So with my family that Christmas day
A girl of sixty years would laugh and play
As we watched her dance
Our eyes were full of tears

The incarnational presence of God today, of course, isn’t necessarily announced by angelic choirs. It isn’t always punctuated by the presence of royalty from far off countries. It doesn’t involve virgins giving birth to Kings. But it is miraculous, nonetheless – because it announces again to the world the hope of something that is coming, a world much better than we could otherwise possibly imagine.

Every time a stranger is befriended, a hungry person is fed, or a blanket is given to someone who is cold in the name of Jesus – God’s presence in the world is again affirmed.

Oh Emmanuel, God with us
Spirit revealed in us
That we may be your hope
To the world
Oh Emmanuel, God with us
With a light to break the darkness
That we may show your hope
To the world
Emmanuel, be God in us

Amen. May the grace of the Lord Jesus be upon you this Christmas season and throughout the coming year, as you seek to be Emmanuel to the world around you.

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