Sermon Series: He Came
Sermon Title: The word became flesh
It is that special season of the year. December is a season of goodwill. LIFE is in the atmosphere, filling hearts with cheer, love and generosity. After the long year of labor and toil, victory and lessons, gain and loss, the month of December is a welcome time for Rest. At this time we typically slow down in our enterprises as we come to a close of the year. Thanksgiving fills the air, staff end year parties, school and office closure, sharing and friendship get into centre stage, we set aside time for fun and family. There seems to be a good spirit all around. God is good. Avery good thing comes from the Lord. It is the reason this month is special.
Not only is it a time for rest, but also a beautiful opportunity for intimate mission. As we reflect on the birth of Christ, or the Christmas story. It is the story of Love Himself-embodied in human form. Jesus travelled across a cosmic divide to bring LIFE to a lifeless world. He set a great example of mission driven by love.
So we want to put this month and season in perspective as we review the Christmas story. The Christmas story is also competing for space with the worship of consumerism and materialism. All malls, shops, retails and business want to make a kill and will go to great miles including use of emblems, symbols to get you to buy buy buy, spend spend spend, eat eat eat be merry. It is for these reasons that many Christians insist in their messages that it is time to put Christ back to Christmas. How do we put Christ back to being the “reason for the season”?
Today I begin this series by looking at the core of the season, the doctrine of Christmas in this sermon entitled ‘The Word became flesh’. Our doctrine of Christmas matters, It is the doctrine of Incarnation- The Word became flesh, it affects how we view our selves, our problems and our ministry as well as how we go about this season. Having laid the foundation, we shall then unfold the series as we look at the implications and applications of this doctrine.
I will be sharing from various passages of scripture as well as an article by a pastor called Matt Proctor in the Christian Standard magazine published in Dec 2013 that articulated this doctrine very well.
Saint Nicholas, the bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, in the early 4th century is the historical basis of the Santa Claus Myth. He was born in a wealth family, But Nicholas used his entire inheritance to help the poor, sick and children in need. He is said to have saved young women from slavery , providing grain during famine and saving many from execution. His has since then been revered as a kind and generous man.
But what we may not know is that Nicholas also cared deeply about the Christian doctrine. In AD 325, he attended a very significant council or meeting of great church leaders throughout the Roman Empire to debate against a heresy or false doctrine that was brought up by a man named Arius who was a teacher of great influence. Arian heresy taught that Jesus was a created being and not fully God. Nicholas strongly disagreed with Arius and tradition says that during one of those meetings the debate got so heated on this subject and was brought to a halt when Nicholas rose and punched Arius right on the floor of the council.
Yes Santa Claus Punched someone because of doctrine. I wonder if he had the opportunity he would punch many today for the false doctrines and misunderstandings around Christmas. Doctrine is what you believe and value that guides your perceptions and actions.
Let’s turn to our core Scripture now: Phil 2:1-11 (read)
Paul in this passage despite his state as a prisoner exhorts the Philippian church with words of joy and cheer. He reminds the church as to how they are to conduct themselves towards each other and others. His basis as always has been the foundation and example of Jesus Christ.
But these words are also specifically directed to us in this season that the world characterizes by selfishness, greed, spending and indulgence. We are called to be different. In emulating the attitude of Christ, we are called to consider the Humility of Christ. The word Humility is not just being humble, but the ability to be human.
Christ’s humility is then seen in his ability to be fully human. His ability to Incarnate. The word Incarnation can only be fully ascribed to God. To incarnate has synonyms like embodied, impersonate. Scripture puts well in John 1:1-5, 14. This is a great mystery that truly is the wonder and glory of Christmas and indeed our lives.
Jesus of Nazareth was fully God and fully man. This is the central doctrine of Christmas. Immanuel- God not just with us, but God as man or God as us. The very essence of the word Immanuel.
The second person of God (what we call trinity), Jesus Christ who was there before time, who through him all the world what we see and don’t see was made, and who through him the world is sustained became flesh. He entered in the world as a human baby through human parents one night in Bethlehem. This entry was not just a happenstance or a reaction, but a pre-planned divine purpose of God to complete all Creation (Man and creation) with Himself, according to God’s pleasure and will, Ephesians 1 tells us. Jesus is the fullness of God who fills everything in every way. Every space, gap, emptiness, lack in all things and all men is completed by Christ
Please note Jesus Christ was not just God’s idea to respond or react to a failed plan when man fell, but Jesus was God’s plan to restore people to his original intention before the fall. Salvation story does not begin after the fall but before the fall. Man fell from that plan, Jesus then is the Plan.
Col 1:15-20, paints this even more strongly. (Read emphasis Verse 9). Jesus then is the fullness of God in human form. Jesus was the perfect LIFE in life man. God’s LIFE fully dwelling in human life. Jesus the son of God and Son of Man.
This plan is the great mystery that the angels and heavens waited in anxiety as God worked it out on that first Noel. How was he going to do it? Was he going to send an angel? Was he going to send another prophet? Was He going to send another Moses? No He was going to come himself.
So when we sing Hark the Herald angels sing, or Joy to the world the Lord has come, or Angels we have heard on high or Holy Night silent night, a great mystery of God was taking place that truly calls the heavens and nature sing and worship God.
2 mistakes we make on this great doctrine.
Verse 6-7, one is to think, by becoming Human, He became less of God. Jesus did not empty himself of his God nature, but emptied himself of some of his Godly privileges during his time on earth. He did not diminish as God when he incarnated. He limited his omnipresence by taking a human body, He limited his Omniscience by experiencing normal human growth, and He limited his Omnipotence by submitting himself to authorities and other forces of humanity the worst of which was death.
But the second mistake is to think that because He was God, Jesus could not have been truly fully man. The gospels paint a clear picture of a real human; he got hungry, thirsty and tired. He laughed and he cried. He blew his nose and he went to the toilet. He was cut and bruised and bled. He felt sorrow, joy, affection, anger, compassion, astonishment, loneliness, distress and grief.
He did not sin not simply because He was God, but He was equally tempted in every way like you and me in Heb 4:15, yet he did not sin. Not simply because He was God and had the power to avoid sin, on the contrary He was more intensely tempted than we all are and unlike Adam who fell, He did not sin because of his great submission and obedience to God rather than to choose to gratify the selfish inclinations in man. He then is the perfect example of how we ought to live. Not my will but your will be done even in the most dire and intense of temptations. As Paul says I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, the life I live in the body I live by faith or submission in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
So the question is not was Jesus fully human, the question is, are you fully human?
What then does this doctrine mean and how does it apply to us.
Consider the story of Jairus Daughter in Mark 5. Jairus daughter is sick; he heard about Jesus and ran to seek his assistance. While on their way Jairus daughter dies. Jesus asked Jairus to believe and after putting all out except his parents, He calls out in these words little girl arise, or Talitha Tokum, and the girl arises. What happened in this miracle?
The power was God’s, the voice was Jesus. When the girl rose, he did not see God but Jesus, It is Jesus who touched him. Jairus did not believe in God but the Jesus that was present.
As you can see referring to Jesus as God, without the word Incarnation or enfleshed or embodied can be confusing. The girl saw God enfleshed or embodied in Jesus. Jesus is not just a mediator between God and Man. Jesus is Himself God. Like I say he did not just come to give us a way to get to LIFE, but He himself is the way the truth and the LIFE.
2 Mind blowing lesson in this doctrine
The wonder of God’s LOVE- His LOVE is humanly intimate.
In Jesus, God’s LIFE came so intimately close to us. Jesus is then as human is the Apex of God’s LOVE for us. God’s LOVE is not mediated in Jesus but personified in Jesus. LOVE is seen in the extent of which one is able to identify with another. How God feels us. In his Incarnation God embraced all humanity so that He could identify fully with us as humanly possible. Let me show you how
Human beings are a complex mix of the material and immaterial. What is called the heart or the core of a man. is made of 3 parts-The Soul -the soul is your intellect, will and emotions. The soul defines your unique personalities e.g likes, dislikes, knowledge and passions and dreams. The Second part is the body which is the material, that which we can physically see in form and structure. Your body determines your color, size, shape, blood group e.t.c. The Third part is then the crucial space that God left in every human being to complete us with himself. This is the place for the spirit of God, or the Space for God’s LIFE. This is the space that is characterized by faith or what we believe. These 3 are inextricably, complexly mixed that when one part is sick the others will catch it. What we believe (the Spirit) affects who we are (the Soul) and what we do (the body)
The word became flesh and dwelt among us. His LOVE identifies fully with our total humanity, our souls, our bodies and spirits. In Jesus becoming human-
He identified with our Souls- The fallen-ness of human personality, he Identifies with my esteem, my passions, my likes and dislikes, my emotions, my fears and worries, my doubts and anxieties, emotions, my loneliness, my shame, my guilt. There is no way I can tell him, You don’t understand what it means to be…..
He identifies with our bodies- He identifies himself fully with our physical needs, our pains, hunger, thirst, nakedness, our poverty, our lack and our bodily needs.
In Christ He identified Himself with our Spirits- He identifies with our disbelief, our allergy to God, Our prone hearts to worship idols, our disobedient spirits, our sinful nature.
How great is this LOVE. Not only to identify intimately with us but to Bridge us intimately to Himself.
When we believe in Christ, and Accept him in our hearts, or in our core. Incarnation made the cross possible. When Jesus was crucified, he died a fully human death to put to death all that bounds us fully as humans and His resurrection dealt with the final limitation for humanity and that is death.
He makes our spirits alive in Him. We become sensitive to God, No longer allergic or rebellious but we become seekers of God and by His Spirit works out the person of Christ in us.
He makes our Souls alive in Him. He affirms our identities and personalities by replacing them with what He says we are. We are significant, accepted, loved. The spirit gives birth to the fruit in Gal 5. Instead of fears and worries we have love, joy peace, patience…
He makes our physical bodies alive- Just as he rose from the dead, we will bodily resurrect. He nourishes our bodies by provision of healing, food. But most of all he gives us an eternal perspective or better understanding of our bodies. We are created for purpose and that is to glorify him in service and in death. Not merely to respond to stimuli. We are to use our bodies in service to God, only then do we find meaning. If we should die then it is because our bodies are through with earthly service and are transformed for heavenly service which is continued worship of God.
When God wanted to demonstrate his love for us, He chose to do so by taking on a human body. Jesus looked directly at people, touched people, and held people. He saw their empty spirits, touched their souls and healed their bodies because he knew exactly how they felt because He himself felt even more intense. So that when we point to our pain, He would show you his nails….and say they did even worse to me.
But the Second Lesson- is the great opportunity of Mission and Ministry born out of this Incarnation.
Ministry is best done in person- Jesus chose to enter the world in a time of low tech, no twitter, fb, email it was good old walking, shouting from the street without a mic, finding direction and time using wind, sun and moon to know how to go about visiting people in their dens and homes. He Could have come into the world in today’s time with all the internet and technological things.
He did not leverage technology to multiply his ministry. He chose that His ministry and mission will happen within his time and limits that the body has. So he multiplied his followers not by doing copy paste, but by speaking to each one. He was physically present for the 12 disciples, He touched people not send them a sign or a prescription, He ate and celebrated with people, he did not just say I am with you in spirit but he came.
Christmas is a great season to remind us that our humanity is not dependent on the sophistication of this world like technology, or the means of travel to see each other or the time available to visit each other, rather a time that we remind ourselves through Christ, that people matter more than anything before God and to be human is to stop at nothing to minister to another. Christmas is a time to identify with each other as Humans. This then is the spirit that motivates sharing and missions. I came to bring you some meat. I noticed you needed a blanket, I heard you were sick, I’ll be here for you.
It is a time to realize that the beggar also has a name like you, The orphan also accepts hugs, the drunkard also gets hungry, the prostitute also feels tired and sleepy. The thief also has needs like you, The politician also needs God like you, Somalis and Alshabab also need peace like you, Muslims are also humans like you. People don’t thank us for the cards, they don’t thank us for the gifts, they don’t thank us for the expensive gifts we bought, they don’t even thank us for the eloquence of our words, instead, they thank us for being there, for remembering them, for thinking about them, for being human.
This then is how people come face to face with Jesus today, through Christ living in you and me. Our acts of compassion, mercy and kindness reflect the Incarnation of God in us, Immanuel living in us and through us. Christ wants to incarnate in us. The love of God is not directed to titles like professions, to leaders, to the sick, poor, black or white, to luos or kikuyus, to church goers and none church goers…it is simply directed to people. And all are equal before God.
The result is that Christ has been rightfully exalted as Lord. This season then is a call for us as the church to stand and declare His Lordship over us, by believing in him, and allowing his LIFE in us to be the example for all men to see.