The Mystery of the Incarnation: The True Essence of Christmas

Dec 25, 2023 – The Nativity of Our LORD, Christmas Day | Isaiah 7, John 1

The True Essence of Christmas

Beyond Enchantment and Mythical Tales

We gather to celebrate Christmas Day, the annual commemoration of Christ's birth into our world. This cherished festival has taken on a mythical and magical quality, captivating our hearts with anticipation and wonder. 

Over the years, Christmas has become entwined with enchanting tales, such as the beloved story of "The Night before Christmas," where flying reindeer accompany a jolly fellow in his red flannel suit, delivering gifts to children worldwide. We also find ourselves captivated by the magical transformation of an ordinary snowman into an extraordinary, even living being, thanks to a mystical hat. 

More recently, we have been enchanted by countless Hallmark movies. They showcase the miraculous ways in which Christmas brings people, families, and neighborhoods together, even in times of turmoil and strife.

It is truly a wondrous time, with Christmas overflowing with these whimsical tales. Yet, it is not surprising that some skeptics or those who have grown weary of the holiday season might view it as frivolous and superficial. We may be tempted to join their voices and dismiss these Christmas tales, urging others to abandon their childlike wonder and embrace reality. 

However, this is not the world I inhabit. While these fanciful stories may overshadow the true essence of Christmas, they cannot diminish its significance. At its core, Christmas is a simple account of a child born into poverty.

Jesus Christ's Birth and Divine Revelation

The Mystery of the Incarnation at Christmas

There are no flying reindeer or extraordinary feats of magic in this narrative, although we do find the celestial celebration of angels in the skies above Bethlehem, singing glory to God in the highest. Yet, in essence, it is merely the birth of a child. However, this does not mean that Jesus' birth lacks mystery. 

The true story of Christmas encompasses a mystery that surpasses human imagination. This profound mystery lies within the person of Jesus Christ himself. Born naturally from the womb of a virgin woman named Mary, Jesus is far from ordinary. 

Centuries before his birth, the prophet Isaiah declared that this child was the holy God. As the angel informed the shepherds tending to their flocks that very night, this child born in Bethlehem is Christ the Lord, the supreme Yahweh. 

This revelation aligns with what the angel Gabriel had previously disclosed to Mary regarding the conception of this child. The angel explained that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, and the power of the Most High would overshadow her, resulting in the Holy offspring being called the Son of God.

God Incarnate as Fully God and Fully Man

The Unfathomable Mystery of Christmas

In the Gospel of John, the apostle describes this mystery in more theological language. He states that the Word, which he has already identified as God, became flesh and dwelt among us. John emphasizes that they have seen the glory of the one and only Son who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Christmas is not just a reenactment of the birth narrative or a celebration of unexplainable events. It is a time to contemplate and celebrate the unfathomable mystery of God being born as a human being. The Almighty Creator of heaven and earth took on our humanity, which is remarkable.

The mystery of the incarnation, the Word becoming flesh, does not mean that Jesus is no longer what he used to be or that he is a mixture of God and man. Jesus is both fully God and fully man. As one theologian put it, the Word did not cease to be what it was before, but it became what it was not before, and that is flesh.

Jesus, True God, Unites with Humanity

The Profound Implications of the Incarnation 

This mystery of the incarnation has profound implications for us. The angel declared that a Savior had been born, and this incarnation has changed the course of human history and the destiny of every one of us. Jesus, the true God, has united himself with all of mankind in such a way that he shares our history and transforms it into his glorious future.

The word "mystery" itself comes from the Greek word "mysterion," which originally referred to a ceremony celebrated among cultic religions. In this ceremony, the worshiper believed they would share the deity's future. Similarly, the mystery of the incarnation means that Jesus, the true God, has united himself with humanity to share our history and offer us a glorious future [[3]].

The Athanasian Creed, a statement of faith, affirms this mystery of the incarnation. It declares that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God and man. He is begotten of the substance of the Father before all the worlds and born of his mother in the world. Jesus is a perfect God and perfect man, equal to the Father in his Godhead and inferior to the Father in his manhood. He is not two, but one Christ.

Redemption through the Incarnation

Jesus Atones for Our Sin-Stained History

Our human history is marred by the stain of sin, a reality we are all too familiar with. Sin not only encompasses our acts of disobedience but also the inherent power of sin that was unleashed through our ancestors, Adam and Eve and their disobedience.

Unfortunately, this sinful backdrop has determined our future, leading us down a path of death and despair. However, in the miraculous event of the Word becoming flesh, the Son of God enters into our sin-stained history and embraces our sin-determined future and destiny.

Every sin that has tainted our past, Jesus willingly takes upon Himself. God, driven by love and joy, desired to do so. Through the power of His divine nature, He triumphs over sin, death, and hell in our very human nature. This ultimate act of sharing our past culminates in the crucifixion of Jesus, where God Himself, in His boundless love, tasted death for every single one of us.

In taking on our flesh, the Son of God bears our sins and carries our burdens. By sharing our past in this profound way, He rewrites our history. Our story transforms from that of condemned sinners to individuals declared righteous and holy through the blood of God Himself.

Our New Future

The Transformative Power of the Incarnation

The Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, God atones for our sins. In Him, God removes guilt and condemnation, replacing them with forgiveness and justification before His divine presence. The Holy Apostle beautifully writes, "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Through His blood, we are justified, and through Him, we find salvation from the wrath of God.

This incredible truth means that in Jesus, our Lord, God has opened up a new future for us—a future that mirrors His own. The Holy Scriptures affirm that all who believe in Jesus, as their God and Savior, become co-heirs with Christ. A co-heir shares in everything that the heir possesses. Therefore, the future that Jesus holds becomes the future of every member of His body.

The mystery of the incarnation has ushered in a new chapter in the story of humanity, one that is written in the precious blood of Jesus. Through God's grace, your future in Christ has become a personal reality, as He has begotten you into His family.


Spiritual Rebirth and Unity with God through Jesus Christ

John articulates this truth beautifully: to all who receive and believe in His name, God grants the privilege of becoming His children, not by human lineage or effort, but by being born of God. As believers in the profound mystery of Christmas, you too have been born anew through the power of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus was born of a pure virgin.

This pure and holy virgin is the bride of Christ, your spiritual mother, the church. Through the baptismal font, she has given birth to you, and Jesus Himself affirms this when He tells Nicodemus that one must be born from above, born of water and the Spirit, to enter the kingdom of God.

Through your baptism, you have been united with God. Never forget this profound truth. Your history is now intertwined with His. Your past has been redeemed and made right through Him. Your present is sanctified by His indwelling life. Your future of eternal glory has been secured through His death, resurrection, ascension, and exaltation. He promises that you will be where He is.

The Mystery of Salvation

Rejoice in the Birth of Christ and His Profound Impact on Our Lives

As the armies of angels rejoiced at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, so too do they rejoice over your new birth in Christ. Your repentance and faith have brought you eternal salvation and transformed you into a pure and holy child of God. The future that Jesus, our Savior, possesses is now your future as members of His body.

Furthermore, in the gospel and the absolution spoken to you by your pastor, the promise of forgiveness is extended to you. Your personal story of sin is exchanged for the personal story of the risen Lord. This mysterious exchange continues in the holy supper of the Lord, where you partake of His body and blood under the humble forms of bread and wine and become united with the incarnate one who atones for your sins.

In this sacred meal, His life becomes your life, and His glory becomes your glory. So always remember that Christmas, or "Christ mass," is not merely the commemoration of His physical birth, but the celebration of the mystery of salvation revealed in His birth. It is a reminder that He came to make your story of shame His own so that His story of glory might become your story of glory.

Therefore, the church joyfully celebrates the mystery of salvation manifested in the birth of Christ, regardless of the specific date. It is the mystery itself that fills us with wonder and brings us true blessing and joy during this Christmas season. In Jesus' name and for His glory, let us rejoice and say, Amen.

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