As we approach Christmas, we are offered a season to reflect on the breathtaking mystery of the virgin who conceived and bore a son who was to be called Immanuel – which means God with us (Matthew 1:23). How perplexing it is to consider the intricacies of God becoming flesh and dwelling among men (John 1:1-18)! So, as we contemplate the mystery of the incarnation, the question I want to address today is “Why?” Why did the Son of God leave Heaven to come down to earth and dwell among men?
Some think that God was lacking in knowledge, so He decided to become a man. Others think that He was simply bored in Heaven and needed to spice things up, so He decided to come down and dwell among us. And still others think that He desired to become man so He could experience that which the eternal God cannot experience: death.
While those explanations are lacking in substance and theological explanation, let me offer two reasons why Jesus really did become man (Note: My thoughts are inspired by St. Athanasius’s On the Incarnation).
1) Jesus became man to turn that which is corrupted into incorruptibility.
All humans are born into the corruption of their parents. This has been the case since the first transgression against God in the Garden (See Genesis 3 & Romans 5). Indeed, everyone born of man is corrupted by nature. Therefore the Son of God took on human-form and was born of “a spotless and stainless virgin, ignorant of man, pure and unmixed from intercourse with men” (St. Athanasius). He delivered His body over to death, so that the corruption in man might be undone, thus turning corrupted human beings to incorruptibility.
The Son of God did not just come to experience death for Himself, as some would say. The Son of God came to die a sinner’s death on behalf of everyone so that we might be freed from the corruption of the body and death.
2) Jesus became man to taste death that the mortal might pass to immortality.
Death reigned over man after the first transgression against God in the Garden, and as such, all taste death; therefore, Jesus became man so that He might die and ultimately show Himself superior to death by rising up from the grave three days later, giving hope to all mankind. “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:21-22). Jesus has shown Himself superior to death, and in Him that which is dead is made alive.
When Jesus Christ became man, He laid aside His glory, He voluntarily restrained His power, He accepted hardship, isolation, ill-treatment, malice, and misunderstanding. As J.I. Packer writes, “He accepted a death that involved such agony – spiritual even more than physical – that His mind nearly broke under the prospect of it. It meant love to the uttermost for unlovely human beings, that we through His poverty might become rich.”
2 Corinthians 8:9 – “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.”
During this Christmas season, let us marvel at God’s great love for us and consider in humility that He became like us in order to restore our corruption to incorruptibility that we might pass from mortality to immortality all for His glory.