Teague McKamey

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Each year, a change comes over our house the day after Thanksgiving. A tree grows in the living room bearing brightly colored, glowing fruit. Stockings march single-file onto the hearth. Various nooks and crannies are surprised to find snowmen and Santas loitering in them. Carols begin pouring from the family room stereo. The Christmas season has come!

At Christmastime we remember the birth of Christ. (This may or may not involve cookies). As I reflect on his birth, something occurs to me. Jesus’s sacrifice at the cross was monumental; so monumental it is easy to overlook the sacrifice of the incarnation. “Incarnation” is a 25 cent word that means Jesus (who is God) became human (John 1:1, 14). Philippians shows how the incarnation and the cross were both points on the same sacrificial trajectory:

“Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for his own advantage. Instead he emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in his external form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross” (Php. 2:5-8).

Jesus existed as pure, eternal Spirit — one God with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He was all-knowing, all-powerful, limitless. When Jesus became human, he gave up all he was, everything advantageous. Think of him donning this rubber suit of a body with all its limitations. Think of him feeling too cold, too hot, hungry, exhausted — suddenly privy to privation as we are. The Creator became subject to the natural laws he himself put in place. Not only that, he was subject to a mob of social norms, civil laws, and religious rules. Some of these came from him (like commands against murder or theft). Most were just the flavor of the day.

At the cross, of course, Jesus tasted sin, death, and separation from God. While these are usual fare for Earth-dwellers, Jesus was force-fed from this sickening buffet until full. He did this out of love as our representative, our priest. Then he died as our representative. Death was the sentence God pronounced on humanity when we began sinning (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:23). Scripture says Jesus took our sin and death so that God could give us goodness and new life (Rom. 5:17).

One would think the sacrifice ended at the cross but it didn’t. When Jesus became man, he joined himself to physicality. His resurrection was bodily. Granted, a different kind of body, a spiritual body, but a body nonetheless (1 Cor. 15:44). Never again would he participate in the Godhead as pure Spirit. Now I’ve gone through many changes in my life, as I’m sure you have. But I’ve never experienced something that changed my fundamental constitution. I’ve grown and matured but I’ve never changed from a carbon-based organism to, say, a chorine-based organism.

Jesus isn’t at all the same being he was before the incarnation. This was part of the cost he accepted. We’ve all experienced stress because our identity changed. Going from married adult to father was a huge shift for me. I can’t begin to imagine going from God to God-Man — and no going back. Jesus’s sacrifice in this way is without end.

I am humbled and overawed to consider how wide, high, and deep Christ’s love is (Eph. 3:18-19). No one can give themselves up so completely as Jesus. More than that, no one can give themselves up so willingly.

First John 3:16 says, “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers.” This is the heart and soul of Christmas — not only giving presents but giving ourselves as Jesus did. I pray this Christmas will deepen our participation with Christ in this way.

Live love, and Merry Christmas!

Teague McKamey lives in Ellensburg with his wife and two children. He is an Elder at Thorp Community Church and blogs at thevoiceofone.org.

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