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Day 1—The Incarnation is What We Want

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:1-7, ESV) 

One of the most intriguing aspects of our postmodern culture is the rejection of any form of universal truth. You can believe something is true, but only if you do not force your belief on anyone else—it’s your truth. To complicate matters further, when we can’t agree on whether or not something is true, we also have a hard time distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. Generally speaking, if the way you describe something is consistent with what you and others can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell—then it’s real. 

As Christians, it is vitally important for us to realize something: our claim of universal truth and belief in both a physical and spiritual realm are hurdles for people outside of Christianity, even for some within the faith. Do you know something that no one can deny is real or true? A baby. 

The birth of a baby is one of the most real and true things humanity experiences on earth. You cannot tell a woman who carried a baby in her body for up to forty weeks that her pregnancy was imagined—her physical discomfort, changing body, emotional exhaustion, and professional medical advice confirm the truth. Likewise, you cannot convince a woman who has screamed in pain or cried tears of joy as she pushed a baby out of her body that it did not happen—she experienced childbirth first-hand and likely had multiple witnesses there to support or assist. The ultimate evidence though—a baby. No one can deny the truth or reality of a baby. 

In the second chapter of Luke, we read the account of the birth of Jesus. Mary was pregnant. She could not fathom how this was possible. Like most young Jewish girls, waiting to be married, she had not yet been sexually intimate with a man. Anyone who knew Mary probably believed she was either a liar or crazy—she either slept with a man or made the pregnancy up for attention. Neither would make sense—not for Mary. Lying about something like that would create a huge scandal and bring shame upon her and her family, possibly tainting her forever. Pregnancy, even sex before marriage, would have most certainly ruined her life. In fact, it almost did. 

Mary was betrothed to a man named Joseph. When he discovered Mary was pregnant, he planned to divorce her quietly and the culture at that time would have allowed him to do so. The fact that Joseph considered divorcing her as recorded in Matthew 1:18-25, is testimony to the fact that Mary was, in fact, pregnant. The only reason he did not go through with his plan was because an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and assured him of Mary’s honesty. Her pregnancy was the fulfillment of a prophecy made hundreds of years prior by the prophet Isaiah, who wrote, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14, ESV). Mary’s circumstances were not imagined or made up. Mary was pregnant—but do you want to know how we ultimately know this to be a reality? Mary had a baby. 

While traveling with her husband in a crowded and unfamiliar city, young Mary, who had been pregnant, gave birth to a baby boy. This child wasn’t just any baby boy. He was the Son of God—Immanuel. Jesus, the son of God, came into this world as a weak, vulnerable, Hebrew, baby boy in the middle of the Roman occupation during a census. It was a crowded city—people saw him—the baby. An angel of the Lord told some nearby shepherds. They came and saw him—the baby. Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple to be dedicated and make their offering to God. The priests saw him—the baby. 

Mary was pregnant, though she hadn’t been with a man, and we cannot deny it—it happened. Mary had a baby and named him Jesus, and we cannot deny it—it happened. In a world and a culture where nothing can be universally true and nothing is real unless it can be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or touched and reasoned as such, we are faced with a baby. In his article The Good God Who Came Down, Michael Horton writes, “…the incarnation is precisely where the Christian faith breaks down the wall our culture has erected between faith and reason.” Our faith is based on the reality that Jesus, the son of God, came down. It is a historical fact. We cannot deny it—it happened. His birth changed everything. 

A prayer: Jesus, you did not descend to earth in all of your power and majesty to conquer evil by the sword, rather you entered this world quietly as a vulnerable, dependent, and fragile baby. You are too wonderful for our minds to conceive, yet you placed yourself in the arms of a young and inexperienced mother in the midst of a tumultuous time in history. Your birth gives us hope that there is more to our humanity than we have experienced until now—your birth changes everything. May your life on earth be the light that guides our path as we seek to know, love, and follow you. Jesus, you are the most real and true entity in all that is—we love you and it is in your name we pray. Amen. 

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