Simply put, its the Christian belief that the invisible God became man. If you have ever eaten a can of chile con carne you’ll known the root meaning of the word. To incarnate is to in flesh (i.e. meat). A carnivore is an animal that eats meat. The Incarnation is the fact that God became flesh.
Many passages of Scriture undergird this belief.
- In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)
- Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross! (Phillippians 2:5-8)
The incarnation is not just a nice belief. It is essential for a relationship with God. It is the connecting link between word and action; the meeting ground of meaning and the material world. John 1:18 states, “NO ONE has EVER seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”
This final phrase “made him known” also means “to explain.” The point and purpose of the Incarnation was to completely explain God. Priests, pastors, and preachers, throughout the ages, have attempted to explain the Word of God, to flesh it out and apply it to our daily lives. Jesus Christ, as the Incarnate Word is the realized application of all that the Father requires. To look at Jesus is to see the invisble God.
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? (John 14:8-10)
At Biola University, there’s a mural of Jesus holding out the bible. The mural is entitled “The Word” and thus is a fitting illustration to this present topic. The pages of the bible are red, like many bibles used to be. The interpretation is found in the fact that the same hue is found in the pigment of Christ’s skin. Christ is the Word made flesh.
I also find it fitting that Logos is the Greek word that our English bibles translate as Word in John 1. The word logos has an important history among Greek philosophy but it also has immediate recognition today. A logo is a tangiable representation of a company or organization. Logos are visual statements that express the heart of a company. Logos advertize as well as inspire. Today, its as if your company is invisible until it has a logo. Christ is the incarnate Logos. He is the invisible God tangiably represented. In him we have experiential access to the Father.
But there is more to the Incarnation then the fact that God became man. The Incarnation is the tie that has unified all things. It’s right that even our calendars hinge on Christ’s birth. When I was a new Christian I thought the calendar should hinge on the date of Jesus resurrection. But its Christ’s Incarnation which has forever established a link between the immeterial and the material, between spirit and body, between faith and practice, between purpose and existence.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Collosians 1:15-20)