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Day 2—The Incarnation is What We Want

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:8-38, ESV) 

For most of us, the most easily accessible path in life is that of obscurity. There is absolutely nothing and no one that forces us to live our lives publicly. Aside from a handful of pictures of us in the bathtub as babies, at a middle school dance, or our high school graduation, we can go through life relatively unnoticed and unknown by most of the world. For some of us, this is ideal—we prefer our privacy and are satisfied to allow a small number of people to know the real us. For others of us, the thought of being a needle in a haystack is terrifying—our lives are open books and we want people to read them. No matter which category you fall into, there is a common thread that unites us. We want to be truly known. The desire to be known is by design, it mirrors God’s desire to be known fully—the incarnation is God’s perfectly planned response to obscurity. Jesus came down in the form of a baby and lived among us for thirty-three years. If this isn’t the biggest clue that God desires to be known, then I don’t know what is. 

 Jesus’s life was not one of obscurity—he needed to be known. It was part of God’s master plan. Jesus’s birth was a flashing neon sign intended to draw our attention to the one person who could show us exactly who God is. His life was a live demonstration of the abundant life God originally intended for us. These events were recorded by people who witnessed them first-hand and have been passed down for thousands of years so that you and I could know him too. 

Immediately after Jesus was born, an angel appeared to some nearby shepherds and instructed them to go and see him—everyone in town heard about it. Eight days after Mary gave birth, as required by Jewish law, Jesus was circumcised and given the name which was given to him by the angel even before he was conceived. Thirty-three days later, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple for their family purification and to present Jesus to the Lord. While there, a devout and righteous man named Simeon, who had been waiting for the messiah of Israel, recognized Jesus immediately as the one whom God sent. God promised that Simeon would not die until he had seen the messiah. His death would have been an announcement to everyone who knew him that the promised one had arrived. God sent a very clear message to many different people from the beginning declaring Jesus was the Christ. He wasn’t only known as the Christ, he was also known in very common ways. 

Jesus was Mary and Joseph’s son. They lived in Nazareth. He was likely brought up as most Jewish children were during the time. Apart from a few specific stories in scripture, we don’t know much about the intimate details of his childhood, but those who lived in Nazareth knew him well. He probably played with other children in the city, learned the Torah, and helped his mother at home. It is also likely that he learned his earthly father’s trade and, lest we think he floated ethereally through life, he probably stubbed his toe and got a splinter now and then. The point is this—Jesus was born, he was here, and he was available to anyone who wanted to know him. The same was true as he began his public ministry and it is still true today. The incarnation brought us a very particular person in Jesus of Nazareth.

Why does any of this matter? In a time and culture where we are more connected than ever, we are also lonelier than ever. We might be seen on social media, but unless we make ourselves available, we probably are not really known. We gravitate toward obscurity, but God is not satisfied to know us only by our Instagram highlight reel. He wants to know us intimately and he made the first move in the birth of Jesus. It was like God shouting from the heavens, “Here I am—know me!” It is the complete opposite of what other religions offer us. The God we serve is not distant, disinterested, and obscure—quite the opposite. God is wildly fascinated with us and came near in the person of Jesus that he might be known. His birth was a proclamation that God is near and his life was an invitation to come and see that the Lord is good. A prayer: Jesus, thank you for coming to this earth so that we might know you more fully. Thank you for showing us the beauty of being available to those around us. Give us the courage to live as you lived. Help us to know you better so that as we tip-toe out of obscurity and slowly allow others to know who we are, they might also know who you are. We love you, Lord and it is in your name we pray. Amen.

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