John 1:1-18 forms the central defining Scriptural text narrating to us of the marvelous coming of God into human history. But this text is far from the only one to probe this mystery. All Christians acknowledge that In Jesus Christ God was fully present and that He moved into our neighborhood in an act of humble love the likes of which the world has never known. “When we talk of the Incarnation with a capital “I” we refer to that act of sublime love and humility whereby God takes it upon himself to enter into the depths of our world, our life, our reality in order that the redemption and consequent union between God and humanity may be brought about. This ‘enfleshing’ of God is so radical and total that it qualifies all subsequent acts of God in his world.”
When God came into our world in and through Jesus, the Eternal moved into the neighborhood and took up residence among us (John 1:14). And the central thrust of the Incarnation as far as we can penetrate its mystery, was that by becoming one of us, God was able to achieve redemption for the human race. But the Incarnation, and Christ’s work flowing out of it, achieved more than our salvation, it was an act of profound affinity, a radical identification with all that it means to be human–an act which unleashes all kinds of potential in the one being identified with. But beyond identification, it is revelation: By taking upon himself all aspects of humanity, Jesus is for us, quite literally the human Image of God. If we wish to know what God is like, we need look no further than Jesus. We can understand him because He is one of us. He knows us, and can show us the way.
Following from this we can identify at least four dimensions that frame our understanding of the Incarnation of God in Jesus the Messiah. They are…
Presence: That in Jesus the eternal God is fully present to us. Jesus was no mere representative or prophet sent from God, he was God in the flesh (Jn.1:1-15, Col.2 2:9)
Proximity: That God in Christ has approached us not only in a way we can understand, but in a way which we can access. He not only called people to repentance and proclaimed the direct presence of God (Mk.1:15) but he befriended outcast people and lived life in close proximity with the broken and ‘the lost’ (Lk.19:10.)
Powerlessness: In becoming ‘one of us’ God takes the form of a servant and not that of someone who rules over us (Phil.2:6ff. Lk.22:25-27.) He does not stun us with sound and laser shows, but lives as a humble carpenter in backwater Galilee for 30 years before activating his Messianic destiny. In acting thus he shuns all normal notions of coercive power and demonstrates for us how love and humility (powerlessness) reflect the true nature of God and are the key means to transform human society.
Proclamation: Not only did the presence of God directly dignify all that is human, but he heralded the reign of God and called people to respond in repentance and faith. In this he initiates the Gospel invitation which is active to this very day.
Perhaps we can illustrate these in the following way…