Taking the Incarnation Seriously

As I write this, it is Christmas day. While Dec. 25 is unlikely the day of Jesus’ birth, it is a good day to reflect on the incarnation. I find that the Church has some dangerous Docetic tendencies. Docetism was an early church heresy that taught that Jesus only seemed to have a human body but in reality he was pure spirit. I believe Evangelicals find this attractive as a reaction to liberal Christians who deny Jesus was really divine. While they would not identify as Docetists, there is a tendency to stress Jesus’ divinity over his humanity.

I don’t see why we have to choose one over the other. The miracle of the incarnation is that the divinity and humanity came together perfectly. I enjoy asking people questions about the birth of Jesus to find out what they think about the incarnation. When Jesus came out of the womb, could he already speak Aramaic? Could he speak all languages, ancient and modern? Did he notice the straw in the manger as well as the supernova in a distant galaxy? Did he just pretend to be a baby to give Joseph and Mary a semblance of a normal life? Did he have the mind of God in the body of a baby?

I would suggest that when Jesus was born, he was think the same things that most babies think: cold and hungry. I believe he had to learn to speak Aramaic and that he did not know English or French. I believe that he had to learn to walk, to be a carpenter and whatever else he did. I believe that Jesus was really human.

That is not say that I don’t believe that he was divine. I believe that he was indeed the Son of God and I take the incarnation seriously. But to take the incarnation seriously, we also have to take his humanity seriously. He was not God pretending to be human. He was God and human.

So as you celebrate Christmas and look at manger scenes with little baby Jesus, remember that he was not pretending to be a baby.

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