Surprised by the Incarnation — God with us

By Pastor Adam Quine
First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln

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In a back alley, to a poor unwed Jewish girl, came the Incarnate One—the fulfilment of humanity. This didn’t happen in a prestigious palace or an ostentatious country club.

Are we surprised?

God always chooses to the poor. God sides with the oppressed. Why? Because God’s involvement with humanity is about liberation. Incarnation is liberation. Not restoration. Or even reformation. Faced with tyranny with the empire’s knee on the necks of the oppressed, God hears their cries and responds. Intervenes. Enters history to move a powerless people to a place of promise. Liberation. The Incarnation calls you and me—calls out to us—to suffer with God against evil in our present age.

We are midwives to another world. Co-creators with the Creator who chose us.

In the face of injustice, just as God did not sit aloof up there, so we must not be aloof down here. The story of the Divine goes Creation, Liberation, then Incarnation.

Creation. Liberation. Incarnation.

Incarnation does not mean simply that God became Jesus; God said, “Yes,” to the material universe. The Incarnation is the Divine’s “Yes,” here and now.

The Incarnation is political, because it is historical. In the Incarnation comes a renewed way of ordering ourselves, which is what politics means. The Divine in Christ didn’t come with pomp and circumstance but instead came quietly and humbly to an oppressed people. In Christ, we see Herod, and Rome, and all empires since then — who have made promises to make the world great again —tremble in fear, because the reign of God is one that rules with love, mercy and moves us towards justice and peace. The Incarnation declares God is Lord, not Caesar or any president.

The Incarnate One’s agenda was countercultural; it went against status quo. From the beginning of his campaign the Incarnate One said, “I’ve come to proclaim good news to the poor…proclaim release to the captives…recovery of the sight of the blind…to let the oppressed go free.” That’s more than a yard sign. It is a statement about the politics of God in Christ, the Incarnate One.

Status quo and niceness aren’t good news. The declaration of the Incarnation is good news, for it means liberation from the suffering of this world. It means salvation here and now. Salvation is liberation. Until all are free—truly free—then salvation has not yet come. The Incarnate One told his disciples (and tells us) to “pay attention—now. Stay awake—now. Keep alert—now.” Salvation is here, now. If our work in salvation is not tied up with the liberation of the poor, oppressed, and imprisoned—then it’s no salvation at all.

The Divine didn’t come to the powerful, but to the lowly. The Divine is found in the least of these. The Incarnation points towards God’s liberation of a people. It focuses our attention on what God has done, is doing, and will do to defeat the principalities and powers of evil.

Incarnation. Liberation. Salvation.

The Incarnation proves the Divine isn’t a spectator to the suffering of humanity. The Divine’s self-disclosure in the Christ is to liberate the oppressed from social and political bondage. Just as the Divine did with the exodus. Just as the Divine is doing now… if only we would have eyes to see and ears to hear.
Christmas demands we prepare for the arrival of the Divine. Our preparation must lead us to struggle for the liberation of the little ones. To welcome the Christ child is to welcome the call to struggle for justice — social and political, both of which are spiritual — a part of that moral arc that bends towards fairness, inclusivity, equity.
According to the New Testament, God became human in Jesus Christ, and defeated decisively the powers of sin, death, and Satan, thereby bestowing upon us the freedom to struggle against suffering which destroys humanity. God chose the poor and the oppressed by being born into a poor Jewish family. God is not merely sympathetic with social distress of the poor but became totally identified with them in their agony and pain. The heartbreak of the oppressed is God’s lament, for God takes on their suffering as God’s own, thereby freeing them from its ultimate control of their lives.

In choosing the oppressed, the Divine identifies with them. As the infant Christ grows into the prophet who spoke truth to political power, we see the call of the Church — to incarnate the love of Christ in our struggle to liberate the suffering from their pain.

The manger affirms the poor, and the cross liberates them to fight against suffering while not being determined by it.



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