“Repetition is the mother of all learning” some people say. I’m not so sure about that, but I am sure that Repetition is the father of Acquaintance, and Acquaintance all too often sires the illegitimate child Contempt. Even the most novel and noble ideas become ordinary and mundane when reduced to bare facts and repeated until they produce the feeling that a thing is so familiar that it no longer warrants consideration or worse, is rendered almost worthless. Repetition without consideration and contemplation is just mental white noise.
This time of year, we herald the story of Christmas. The baby in the manger adorns snowy front lawns. The nativity is reenacted by church groups and celebrated in children’s pageants. It is talked about, sung about, and witnessed about, as it should be. But is all this repetition achieving our goals if it is not coupled with consideration and contemplation? Has the incarnation become so familiar that it’s just another fact lodged in our heads, no longer an idea that moves our hearts?
As I chewed on these thoughts this question came to my mind: what was the purpose of the incarnation anyway? Some scholars would answer that question as follows – the purpose of the incarnation was for God to take on flesh so that he might die as a perfect sacrifice to take away the sins of the world. Though this brief answer might address the powerful scope and goal of the incarnation, it does not answer to all of its vast and intended effects.
Though His sacrificial death was the only means through which we could be reconciled, what was the purpose of His life? He needed to die, but what was so important that God would condescend not just to die for us, but to live with us?
The answer is that we did not just need His death, we needed His life. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life”.
What is it about man that often makes us mortify our faith, strangling the relationship that gives it vitality, leaving a wizened corpse of unheeded creeds? We, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day can reduce our beliefs into this wretched state, but our compassionate Father knows our weakness and He gave us the remedy, the incarnation.
Nothing brings to life truth like a good story. So, “… the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth”. The power of the incarnation to affect our daily life, not just our eternal life, was… His life. His life as a story.
The author of eternity entered the pages of history. He embodied the qualities of Deity. He gave us the best story. His story. He encased His nature into bone and flesh and let us see the effects. He lived for us to see what makes the Eternal weep, laugh, cry, pray, speak, listen, give and receive. He was truth personified. He was narrative. This is one of the powerful effects of the incarnation, and it demonstrates the impactful influence of story.
Every time we read, we must know that He is the Word. Without Him, without Word, there would be no story.
This Christmas time, let us allow the incarnation to have its full effect. Let us pause and appreciate the Word become flesh and how His story must be heard and become our own.