I’ve been writing a lot about Advent on Kaleidoscope, mainly because that blog has a more general readership than Mind on Fire, but also because I wanted to range far afield on subject matter if I chose.
I think I’ve meditated more about Advent and the Incarnation this year than in any previous year. I see the Incarnation throughout the New Testament, not just in passages such as Galatians 4 or Philippians 2 or Hebrews 2, but whenever I read the phrase “in Christ” I see the Incarnation because not only are we in Christ but Christ is in us; and frankly we are either the continuation of the Incarnation or we are not, and I don’t mean simply in action, I mean in essence; for without the essence, the life of the Trinity, there can be no meaningful and lasting action.
For the past few years the term “incarnational” has been in vogue. The context is typically one of living out what we say we believe about Christ and the Gospel. The thing is, I’m not sure that when we use the term we use it rooted in the New Testament, I’m not sure we use it rooted in John Chapters 14 –17, or use it rooted in Colossians 1:27. Do we use the term “incarnational” with an awareness that Christ meant it when He said that He and the Father and the Holy Spirit were coming to live within us? Is that our experience? Is it what we teach?
Fully realizing that discipleship encompasses elements of mentoring and training, it seems that rather than teaching our people who Christ is in them and who they are in Christ, that we have embarked on a regimen of constructing external superstructures upon which people and churches are to depend for growth and functioning. These superstructures appear to constantly need reinforcing or changing lest people and churches cease functioning. This applies to well-intentioned folk who strive to discover and implement Scriptural principles by which we might minster and live; Scriptural principles can be a substitute for knowing who Christ is in us and who we are in Christ. Perhaps one of the realities behind the Biblical teaching that The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, is that this particular kind of fear is inherently relational, it implies a recognition of the One who is to be feared, a recognition of His holiness, His majesty, and His presence.
If the Incarnation of Jesus Christ is not continuing in us then what does it matter if we acknowledge His birth in Bethlehem? Wouldn’t we be better off ignoring His birth until such time as we approach the manger not in an attitude of sentimentality; but rather in an attitude of worship and reverence? And not just the manger of 2,000 years ago, but life today? And not just life “out there” outside of ourselves, but firstly life within us, inside of ourselves?
The Temple that requires cleansing is not in long ago Jerusalem, it is me. The Temple that God came to inhabit on Pentecost was not a temple of stone, but a Temple of people. The shepherds marveled at what they saw in Bethlehem; the crowds marveled at what they saw in Jerusalem on Pentecost. Angles announced the birth of Christ in Bethlehem; the Holy Spirit announced the continuing incarnation of Christ in His Church In Jerusalem on Pentecost. Are we announcing His continuing incarnation today?