Glenda Simpkins Hoffman
Merry Christmas! I hope you are enjoying celebrating Jesus’ birth.
On this Christmas day, I wanted to share reflections on the incarnation. Knowing God by J.I. Packer is one of my all-time favorite books. The chapter “God Incarnate” has stayed with me for nearly 40 years. I recommend the entire chapter, but today I share a portion for your reflection. Packer’s words are both comforting and challenging, but they lead to an invitation to respond as we consider how to live out the Christmas spirit all year long.
“The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man–that the second person of the Godhead became the ‘second man’ (1 Cor. 15:47), determining human destiny, the second representative head of the race, and that He took humanity without loss of deity, so that Jesus of Nazareth was as truly and fully divine as He was human….
“It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. ‘The Word became flesh’ (John 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child.
“And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation….”
“We see now what it meant for the Son of God to empty Himself and become poor. It meant a laying aside of glory; a voluntary restraint of power; an acceptance of hardship, isolation, ill-treatment, malice, and misunderstanding; finally, a death that involved such agony—spiritual, even more than physical—that His mind nearly broke under the prospect of it. (See Luke 12:50, and the Gethsemane story.) It meant love to the uttermost for unlovely men, who ‘through his poverty, might become rich’. The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity—hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory–because at the Father’s will Jesus became poor, and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear.
“We talk glibly of the ‘Christmas spirt’, rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis. But what we have said makes it clear that the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning. It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of Him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas. And the Christmas spirit itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all year round….
“For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principles of making themselves poor—spending and being spent—to enrich their fellowmen, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others—and not just their own friends—in whatever way there seems need.… If God in mercy revives us, one of the things He will do will be to work more of this spirit in our hearts and lives. If we desire spiritual quickening for ourselves individually, one step we should take is to seek to cultivate this spirit.”
That sounds like a great challenge for the new year. In the week before the new year begins, I encourage you to make time to consider how God is calling you to cultivate Christmas spirit in 2021. Change will come no matter what we do, but growth and transformation requires vision, intention, and the means of grace that Christ has already given. What practices, relationships, and experiences will help you to become more like Christ together for the world? There are many ways to deepen your relationship with God, grow together with others, and serve in 2021. Explore our new VPC website and consider writing or renewing a Spiritual Growth Plan. Let’s join together to continue to live and share the Christmas spirit in the year ahead.