The Incarnation and the Worshiping Community (Part 1 of 2)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3, 14)
A friend suggested to me recently that Christian truth is contained in three great Christian doctrines: the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Resurrection. As I’ve considered his statement, I have often found myself challenged in my thinking and reviewing the depth of each of these foundational beliefs. Whether or not we want to hold to this view, we can surely spend a lifetime studying and learning them.
The season of Advent affords an excellent opportunity to explore the ideas found within the doctrine of the Incarnation. This doctrine is considered in detail in such studies as T.M. Moore’s set of articles titled, “Why God became Man.” In this series, T.M. leads the reader through the arguments put forth by Anselm of Canterbury in his classic treatment of the subject.
My purpose—in this article and the next—is to ascertain how the Incarnation might be appropriately made part of the worship experience in a gathered community. We must be careful to balance the intricacies of this doctrine as it explains the miracle of “God with us,” while at the same time connecting it with why it really matters today. We must stay away from reciting a dusty doctrine and be sure to see how it encourages transform lives.
That Jesus Christ is the God-man stands at the center of the Incarnation, as we can see from the opening verses of the Gospel of John quoted above. These verses swirl around and create a picture of a Creator who spoke, whose very Word has life, and that this living Word is God Himself. It is this Word – which embodies the fullness of knowledge, wisdom and truth – which becomes embodied. The Word becomes flesh and dwells among fallen mankind. God becomes man. God is with us!
When placed within the scope of the Christian Worldview, this is a revelation for wonder and celebration. From both theological conviction, as well as common experience, all of mankind knows the state of their plight (see Romans 1:18-32). We know all too well that we are separated from God and that our best efforts have failed to repair the damaged relationship created by Adam’s disobedience (see Romans 3:9-12, 23). It is in the midst of this despair and hopeless state that Christ comes.
And His coming to us is a vital aspect of the Incarnation. The humble willingness and submissive obedience of Jesus to lay aside the privileges of His divinity to come near to us in human form is nothing more than a miracle (see Philippians 2:5-11). The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Christ, existing as the “exact representation” of God, yet took on flesh and blood in order to identify with humanity – not just in theory, but in reality (see Hebrews 1:3 and 2:14).
As a result of this great story, we gather together in communities of faith with much to celebrate. Yet, it must be done is such a way that we worship more than a babe in a manger, but reflect the fullness of the gospel message as it flows through the creation-fall-redemption paradigm. The wonder of Jesus coming in the flesh is lost if we miss the need of humanity to overcome the sin nature as a result of Adam’s disobedience.
One specific example of how this can be done well – and memorably – is in the great hymn by Isaac Watts that we sing each year, “Joy to the World.” Let’s consider how Watts reflects the themes of Christian Worldview in this victorious hymn. After a statement of rejoicing and hope in the first stanza, Watts calls together the voices of both mankind and the created order for celebrating both of the first two stanzas.
We can see this theme in the lines:
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy…
And what are they celebrating? The restoration of what had been broken. Romans 8:18-23 reminds us that creation was “subjected to futility” as God laid upon Adam the consequences of his sin and the ripples into the whole of creation. Watts is noting in these few words that something had been broken after a good and perfect creation.
In stanza three, Watts clearly explains the problem that involves all of human kind and the whole created order – sin and the curse. The repercussions of Adam’s sin were like a shockwave that impacting everything.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found…
By drawing into his lyrics the seriousness of the effects of sin, Watts skillfully reminds us why we need a Savior. Watts shows us why the rejoicing he calls for is important and vital. In the final stanza he returns to his original point of lifting our voices in joy for the Savior that has come. Our King has come! His rule is “with truth and grace” which shows the wonders of His love.
It is the fullness of this story that we celebrate at Christmas. It is in considering the full sweep of the creation-fall-redemption paradigm that we can understand – and celebrate – the meaning of the Incarnation.
(Original Post on December 5, 2013 at the Worldview Church: http://www.breakpoint.org/worshiparts/articles/18892-the-incarnation-and-the-worshiping-community-part-1)
Posted on December 12, 2016, in Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, theology and tagged creation, fall, Mark Sooy, redemption, theology, worldview, WorshipThink. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.