Incarnation is not only a big word—it can also be a kind of confusing part of the Christmas story. Sometimes we avoid talking about things we don’t understand, but incarnation is the sort of miraculous, mysterious thing we should take some time to talk about. And this is the perfect time of year to do it.
It starts with a prophecy. Long before Jesus was born, there was a prophecy, or a prediction, about Him. You can read it in Isaiah 7:14. It was such an important prophecy it is also quoted in Matthew 1:23. It says, ““Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which means, God with us.”
That’s the idea behind incarnation—the idea that God is with us. God came to earth to be with us.
So, fast-forward about 700 years after the prophecy and Mary is engaged to Joseph. It’s a story we’re familiar with: one night an angel comes to tell Mary she is going to have a baby. But this baby is going to be called the Son of the Most High, the Son of God, as it says in Luke 1:32b and 35b.
This comes as a shock to both Mary and Joseph—for different reasons respectively. But they both knew, or had some suspicions, that God’s prophecy was coming true. So it’s another surprise when it’s time for the baby to be born and nothing glamorous happens. Jesus, God’s own Son, didn’t make a royal entrance. There was no big to-do and no epic party, which should be shocking to us. It’s probably why so many people in Jesus’ time didn’t suspect He was fulfilling God’s prophecy. This is God’s Son we are talking about—He should be dressed in a robe and have a royal entrance, or at least a party of the century!
Instead, Jesus was born in a dirty stable, to poor parents, in a country where they were not welcomed. He was a refugee.
It almost seems unbelievable, doesn’t it? But this is what we celebrate at Christmas. We celebrate that God doesn’t just love us; He loves us so much He wants to be with us. Jesus is God incarnate—God in human form. He is Emmanuel. He is the God who chooses to be with us. He isn’t inaccessible or unreachable. He doesn’t live somewhere else, somewhere far away. He doesn’t care about who we’re connected with on LinkedIn, how we drink our coffee, or what clothes line our closets. He chose to be close to us and He chose to make a way for us to be close to Him. And it’s not just at Christmas. God is always with us, not because He has to be but because He wants to be.
Just flip back all the way to the beginning. God created the world and said it was good. Then He created people—we were made in His image. And when He was finished, He said His creation was very good. You are very good and He wants to be with you.
The next time you hear the word incarnation, just think Immanuel. Just think God with us. God with us in the ordinary. God with us in the hard stuff and the happy stuff. God who never leaves us and loves us like crazy. God with us.
Written by Kelli Gilmore