When God became man in Christ Jesus, He achieved a great deal more than we can ever realize. The extent of the salvation He accomplished exceeds our understanding. No matter what we say about it, it can’t be enough.
On the other hand, sometimes we can think we’ve got it figured out and be content to let it be. I think this is a mistake that unnecessarily undercuts our joy.
Consider Christmas for example. Ever since the Victorians secularized it, treating it like a great moral event, Christmas has been on a track for sentimentality. Now, I would venture to say that most Christians see Christmas as a preparation for something that came later, namely the crucifixion.
Our salvation comes to be summarized in the crucifixion and, for some, the resurrection. Christmas is a minor event on the way there.
I would like to suggest that this attitude, while there is some truth contained in it, conveys an understanding of salvation that is much less than what Christ offers in His Words.
The work of salvation and its achievement were not accomplished on one weekend. Christ offers us a salvation that was prepared for from eternity and that was put into motion the moment the Virgin conceived. In other words, the Christian offering of salvation begins with the Incarnation of the Son of God and literally never ends.
To be saved, in the Biblical teaching, is to be united to Christ. When a man or woman is united with Christ, all that Christ receives from the Father is received by those who are united with Him. In fact, St. Paul speaks more about us being “in Christ” than he does about us being united with Christ.
During the season of Advent our thoughts can easily turn to questions about how the Father was, so to speak, enabled to give us everything in Christ by uniting us with Him. How was God able to present to mankind everything He wanted to give us, when we had chosen a different path in our first parents and in our own choices?
Here we are, worried continually about what to eat, how to get ahead, what we can wear all because we chose to put what we eat, how we can get ahead, and what we can wear ahead of simple faith in the One who promised us an eternal paradise in His presence. We rejected Him. Death became part of who we are because that was and is what we chose and choose. Mankind is fallen and dead. Our nature is broken to its core.
What can God do for us in such a situation?
He had to start us over. Reboot us, to use modern language. Renovate us. Recapitulate the whole thing. But how?
The answer, of course, is Jesus. Since human nature was in a state of irreparable ruin, God made a New Man. This new man was, is, and had to be, every bit as much a human as we are or it wouldn’t help. If we have a human body, the New Man had to have a human body. If we have human minds, the New Man had to have a human mind. If we have a human will, the New Man had to have a human will.
This is the point of the Incarnation. In it, God the Son, the Second Person of the eternal and Holy Trinity, “took upon Himself the form of a servant.” Only those elements of humanity that He took on Himself could be redeemed. If He was going to redeem our bodies, He had to have a human body. How much more our minds, wills, souls, spirits? So He took upon Himself every part of human nature and He did it without sin, because He was not born in sin.
Had He been born of a human father and mother, he would have been born enslaved to death, like we are. But because He was born of the willing Virgin, He was not a slave to death. Just as He was and is 100% human (nothing natural to us as humans was withheld from Him) so also He was and is 100% God (Nothing that is true of God is untrue of Him).
That is why we can say that when He was laid in the feeding trough, He revealed the glory of God. When He was visited by lowly shepherds, He made known His authentic majesty. When He went silently to the crucifixion, He revealed His power. But only to those with eyes to see.
As we approach the Christmas celebration this year, let us remember that the gifts around the tree are mere foretastes and shadows of what Christ has secured for us in the eternal glories of His presence. Let’s take a few minutes at least to remind ourselves that when God became one of us, He made it possible for Him to be “made perfect through sufferings”, He identified Himself with us so completely that all we have to do is accept His acceptance to be one with Him into the ages of the ages.
The Love of the God who is Love is the perpetual labor to give us everything in His Son. Let’s receive it.