In today’s session, we’ll be focusing on the Incarnation. This doctrine seeks to describe God’s becoming human in Jesus Christ. What comes to mind when you hear the ‘Incarnation’? (There’s no right or wrong answer to this question!)
To get us thinking about the topic, let’s begin by looking at what the Bible says about this.
Divide into 4 groups, taking one of the following passages each. Each group should ask what the passage tells us about the nature and purpose of the Incarnation:
John 1: 1-18
Ephesians 2: 11-22
‘Why did God become human?’, Prof. Oliver Crisp
Oliver describes how the Incarnation allows us to be more intimately united with God. In what ways do you think God becoming man helps to achieve this? (You might want to refer to some of the passages discussed earlier).
What are your instinctive reactions or questions to the idea that Jesus is fully human and fully divine? Do you think this is an idea we can make sense of? What did you think of Oliver’s analogy of the spaceman and the spacesuit?
Oliver says that ‘In Christ we see the face of God’. What does Jesus show us about what God is like? In what ways is our understanding of God changed by engaging with Jesus?
What did you think of Oliver’s claim that the Incarnation makes Christianity unique compared to other world religions?
How might engaging with God through Jesus change the way we live every day?
“We need to stop, we need to slow down, we need pause and we need to take the core claims of the Christian faith slowly. …If we take those claims seriously, then we can’t any more think of God as a God hidden behind the cloud…Now we’re dealing with a God who has reached out a hand of friendship…and reached out to embrace us and reached out to have relationship with us and to transform us. …If we take those things seriously, it’s got to make change to how we get up on a Monday morning, in how we face the week and how we face the everyday tasks we have to deal with. And if it doesn’t, then it’s probably because…we haven’t encountered the God we find in Jesus Christ.”
We’re going to spend some time putting Oliver’s advice into practice-- slow down and pause over those profound truths. Take time to stop. You might like to read one of passages that was read earlier and allow yourself to be amazed at the scandal of these words, or you might prefer to write some simple words to remind yourself of the scandal that God has reached out to us in Jesus.
Group leaders, for this activity you will need: pens and paper, and a copy of the calendar resource at the end of this pack.
We finish by thinking about how we might practically apply this act of worship in our lives.
Take time to look over your week. You might want to sketch out the plans that you have, the people that you will meet, and the things that you are concerned about.
Reflect on the words that we’ve heard today: God is the God who reaches out a hand a friendship and reaches out to embrace us.
Look back over these plans for the week. How does this impact your perspective on the week ahead? Try to think how each situation might be transformed by an awareness of what we have been reflecting on in this session.
In this video Oliver describes theology as: (i) asking fundamental questions of life, (ii) a meeting of the life of the mind and the life of faith, (iii) an exploration of the mystery of an infinite God from our finite perspective, and, (iv) an invitation to seek an understanding of faith. Which of these four do you find the most attractive as a description of theology and why?
Athanasius, On The Incarnation (widely available)
Donald McLeod, 1998. The Person of Christ (Inter Varsity Press).
Gerald O’Collins, 2009. Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus (Oxford University Press).