When I studied at Westminster Theological Centre they sometimes summarised different perspectives on Jesus using one simple question: How close can God come?
As we approach another Christmas you might be bouncing up and down with excitement, maybe you started eating mince pies and listening to Mariah Carey in September. You might be someone who is less keen on the holiday season. Whatever your opinion is on the celebration, Christmas really comes alive when we start to look at something called the incarnation. The incarnation is the idea that God became man and, for christians, that is the heart of Christmas.
The reason this topic, the incarnation, can become quite complicated is because, for the last 2,000 years, the Church has tried to work out what we really mean when we say that God became man. If you think about it for a moment it might start to make your brain hurt… One of the key questions the early church writers wrestled with was: If God became man, how close did he come to creation?
It probably feels more comfortable to answer the question by saying ‘not very close’. When we look at the world around us, we probably don’t feel like our messiness is where God would choose to dwell. It wouldn’t make sense for a holy God to have that much to do with our brokenness.
Cyril of Alexandria, an early church writer, said the opposite. He wrote that God had to take on every single part of humanity in order to save us. So, if that’s true, what happened to all the brokenness? What happened when God touched human sinfulness?
When the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary’s womb, God’s divinity took on all of humanity, and from that moment the redemption of mankind began. Brokenness was healed, the messy parts were made holy, for God was now dwelling amongst his creation.
‘God took everything that was ours and made it his own, so that we could have everything that was his’ - Cyril of Alexandria, On the Unity of Christ
When we worship we often say phrases like ‘come, Holy Spirit’ or ‘come and have your way Jesus’. The idea is that we are asking the presence of God to enter the room we are in or even to fill us, as people, with his presence. That type of language can be hard to grasp, what does it look like for God to enter a room? What does it mean to be filled with his presence?
When we think about the incarnation, it can start to make a little more sense of these phrases. It looks like Jesus becoming part of our world. It looks like Jesus taking on our brokenness and he doesn’t stop there. He brings healing, he brings peace and he shows us what his vision for humanity looks like.
James 4:8 says ‘draw near to God and he will draw near to you’. God never forces himself on us but he’s there, waiting to come close when we ask him to.
Why not take some time to draw near to God. Put on some worship music, take some time to pray and see what comes to mind. What do you notice God is saying to you? Is there any part of your life that you’re holding back? It could be in your finances, your time or even sharing Jesus with your friends and family. Finally, what would it look like to let God into those areas of your life?
This Christmas, how can you let God come closer?