The Sacrifice of the Incarnation

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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.

  • December 16, 2016 - 8:04 am

    Linda Swanekamp - What you wrote is moving, true, grounded, and very deep. I am grateful you were able to write it. May you have a day full of joy regardless of what physical state you are in. I suffer from chronic pain, nothing like yours, but enough to know limitations. Thank you for this message.ReplyCancel

    • December 16, 2016 - 3:02 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Linda. May you have a day full of joy as well.ReplyCancel

  • December 16, 2016 - 8:54 am

    Becki - thank you, dear one…
    beautifully expressed…
    vulnerably real…ReplyCancel

  • December 16, 2016 - 10:13 am

    Veronica - I thank the Lord for your life and how He is glorified in it. It gives me hope to press on just today, for one day. God has encouraged me through you, a fellow christian.ReplyCancel

    • December 16, 2016 - 2:59 pm

      Vaneetha - So glad the Lord used this to encourage you, Veronica!ReplyCancel

  • December 16, 2016 - 12:16 pm

    MIke R - So true. And in this, I find myself thanking God for my affliction. I am reminded of Jacob, a very strong man, who rolled away the stone from the well. Then a divine wrestling match left him limping for the rest of his life, no longer able to depend upon his own strength.

    Thank you holding up the example of Jesus, a man who relied fully upon his Father while limited in the flesh. And now our High Priest. Fully man. Fully God.

    Unlike Christ, I did not go willingly into limitation. But my Shepherd loved me enough to bless me with it, anyway. Thanks be for the active obedience of Christ!ReplyCancel

  • December 16, 2016 - 3:50 pm

    David Kenny - Your dependence on Him is a blessing Vaneetha
    as is your clarity on seeing the cross
    and His resurrection as our focus for the
    love praise and glory our Saviour
    so richly deservesReplyCancel

  • December 16, 2016 - 11:05 pm

    Paula - Vaneetha, this is so good, the kind of insight you one cd only gain thru trial. Light is pouring through you, my friend.ReplyCancel

    • December 17, 2016 - 12:03 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you so much, Paula. This means a lot coming from you – as your insights and writing have ministered to me so many times.ReplyCancel

  • December 17, 2016 - 10:10 am

    Scott - Thank you Vaneetha. Merry Christmas to you and your family, ScottReplyCancel

  • December 18, 2016 - 1:21 pm

    lily - This reminds me of the 2nd verse of one of my fav carols, written by Christina Rossetti:

    “Our God–heav’n cannot hold him, nor earth sustain,
    Heaven and earth will flee away when he comes to reign,
    But in that bleak mid-winter, a stable-place sufficed
    For the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.”

    Thanks so much for writing. I have you in my feed reader, and always wait to read until I have time to read slowly and savor. Merry Christmas!ReplyCancel

    • December 20, 2016 - 3:16 pm

      Vaneetha - Those are beautiful words, Lily. Thanks so much for sharing them!ReplyCancel

  • December 19, 2016 - 11:36 pm

    Allyson - Precious words from a precious woman whom I admire so much! I’ve gotten together a small group of young women to read your book. I’m so thankful for the ways God has used your words and your suffering for those of us seeking clarity and searching for God in the midst of our own suffering.ReplyCancel

    • December 20, 2016 - 3:15 pm

      Vaneetha - I feel so honored and humbled that you would do that, Allyson. And so grateful God is using the book to encourage others. Thanks so much for letting me know.ReplyCancel

  • December 21, 2016 - 10:55 am

    Arlene - Good morning, dear Vaneetha:
    I am presently reading a book written by Jen Wilkin entitled, “None Like Him.” In her first chapter, she writes about God’s infinitude, that He is boundless, limitless, uncontainable. In reading your article, you write about the incarnation–that God, out of His great love for us, “willingly limited Himself for us.”
    It was a “wow” moment for me! What love and condescension! I also appreciated your comment about God being most glorified in our weakness when we rely on Him for strength. In referring back to Jen Wilkin’s book again, she writes, “When I reach the limit of my strength, I worship the One whose strength never flags. When I reach the limit of my reason, I worship the One whose reason is beyond searching out.” I just think it’s neat how God led me to Jen’s book and your article and the two are like “bookends” of the wonderful truth of the limitless God who willingly limited Himself in the incarnation, and is most glorified when we embrace our own weaknesses and limitations and rest and rely on His strength. May God continue to pour out His all -sufficient grace on you, dear Vaneetha. Thank you so much for being a conduit of God’s grace and blessing. Merry Christmas.

    In Him,
    Arlene G.ReplyCancel

    • December 21, 2016 - 4:18 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you for writing, Arlene. Love that comparison with Jen Wilkins book. I’ve heard so much about it – I definitely want to read it. Have a wonderful Christmas!ReplyCancel

  • December 29, 2016 - 10:00 pm

    Deborah Arthur - Dear Vaneetha,
    would you consider depression to be a suffering for believers? I am in a dark place right now and so long to have peace and rest for my mind and soul. How do you lean into Jesus?
    I have been blessed by your posts.
    Blessings,
    DeborahReplyCancel

    • December 30, 2016 - 8:30 pm

      Vaneetha - Deborah – I definitely consider depression to be suffering for believers. And I know that it is a most difficult type because when we are depressed, it’s hardest to “lean into Jesus.” But leaning into Jesus to me means reading the Bible even when we don’t feel like it, praying, constantly crying out to God even with our sighs and groans too deep for words. It is trusting that God is in our suffering and looking for him in it rather than believing he is against us.

      I’m so glad you have been blessed by my posts. Praying as I write this that God will fill you with peace and rest for your mind and soul, that you would feel his presence even in the dark, in an breathtaking unmistakable way.ReplyCancel

  • December 30, 2016 - 8:46 am

    Whitney - Thank you for this beautiful post. I have been on a journey of my own. A journey to come to know Jesus Christ more personally and profoundly. It never ceases to amaze me how God works in each of our lives to bring us to know Him. He is real. He lives. He loves us. He wants to be our friend. Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • December 30, 2016 - 8:32 pm

      Vaneetha - Dear Whitney – thank you so much for that great reminder of how much Jesus loves us – personally and profoundly. What a great word to carry with us throughout life.ReplyCancel

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