And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… (John 1:14)
This Christmas, the magnitude of those simple words has been washing over me. God came to earth and lived among us as a man.
God, who has no beginning and will have no end, who exists outside time and space, who created the heavens and the earth and set the moon and stars in their place, willingly limited himself for us.
God whose glory is above the heavens and who created all things, who laid the foundations of the earth and told the ocean how far it could come, who commanded the morning and formed the dry land with his hands, became subject to his own creation.
God who needs nothing and gives life to everything, who upholds the universe by the word of his power, who is worshiped by the host of heaven, came to be a servant.
I had always focused on the ultimate sacrifice, the saving work of Christ on the cross. Indeed, that is why he came. But I often overlooked the enormous sacrifice inherent in the incarnation. Just as the crucifixion involved sacrifice and separation from God, so did the incarnation. Jesus enjoyed unending fellowship with the Trinity until he severed that union when he entered humanity. God came to earth as a helpless baby. One of the frailest of all creatures. Dependent on his earthly parents. Unable to take care of his own needs.
Jesus lived on the earth with the same limitations that we do.
This truth strikes deep for me, for I find myself growing more and more dependent on others. I can no longer consistently do the things for myself that I used to do. Sometimes I can easily put on my coat or pick up a glass to drink. But other times those things are impossible and I need to ask for help even to sip my coffee. I find that very difficult, partly out of pride and partly not wanting to trouble other people.
The journey from independence to dependence has been both painful and humbling. I used to go through airports by myself, wheeling my own suitcase. I didn’t need assistance. But now I am always in a wheelchair, pushed by other people, needing help for a myriad of things. I feel invisible when people look at my husband and ask, “Can she walk through security?” without bothering to even address me. I feel diminished and yet I know they are just trying to help. My husband’s gaze is at eye level to theirs so it’s easier to speak to him.
It’s a challenge to let go of what I was and embrace my limitations, but there is a beauty in dependence as well. God changes me when I humble myself. I understand my reliance on God in a new way. I have to let God work through my weakness rather than relying on my strength. The more dependent I am on him, the more his strength and his power are made evident in my life.
Nothing I do apart from God will bear lasting fruit. When I am wholly dependent on God, praying for guidance, reading the Word, listening to the Spirit, I am much more valuable to the kingdom than when I depend on my own resources. The branches cannot do anything apart from the vine and I cannot do anything apart from Christ.
Your journey is not the same as mine, but God is inviting each of us to complete dependence on him.
Christ found joy in his dependence on God. He did not count equality with God something to be grasped but voluntarily let it go. He willingly emptied himself. He chose dependence because he trusted God.
The incarnation is an incomprehensible sacrifice for us. God entered our world, giving up all that he had before, to limit himself so that we might have eternal life. The sacrifice he made for us was not just at the cross; it began at the incarnation when God laid aside all his glory and took on human form, with all its limitations, and was born as a baby in a stable in Bethlehem.
This Christmas, let us truly see the wonder of the Christ-child and, with shepherds, wise men and the host of heaven, worship him, for he is worthy of all honor and praise. Glory be to God in the highest.