Advent: The Incarnation
Where do you go for the most important news of the day? Strange as it may seem, the most important news on any given day won’t be found on the front page. Neither will the most important news be found at the start of the hour, the top of any blog, or the forefront of most minds. The most important news on any given day may run right by you without notice because the most important news on any given day will be tucked quietly in between the headlines of war, the power plays of politicians, the sports wins, and the forecasted weather. Under the belly of our interwoven, updated, and synched world of connection we let the most important news slip away: the births!
Tucked among the weddings and the funerals, we find the same sort of announcements which God has been using to give His people hope since the Garden of Eden. While the wars are waged and as the money is lost, gained, stolen and made, amongst the fluctuating, spinning and tireless running of history, great names are being woven together in wombs by God (Ps. 139:13). So while we may have an eye and an ear for the disastrous unraveling of the world, God is about the business of bringing forth new life.
When we read the account of the Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God we often would like to keep our eyes on the grief and mess of their sin but in response to the horror of the Fall God gave that stricken couple some important news about a coming birth (Gen. 3:15). Theologians call this important news the protoevangelium or “first gospel” because it’s the Bible’s first hint of how God will come and redeem the entire universe from the effects of the Fall.
When we read about the first human death, we might be tempted to grieve and give up on our fellow man but after Cain killed Abel, God appointed another birth in Abel’s place (Gen. 4:25).
When we read the awful headlines about the Flood and the Tower of Babel, we might be stunted by the shock of human evil but soon enough we see God once again giving us the important news of a coming birth (Gen. 12:1-3).
What can stop our great God from reporting the important news and granting new life?
In the Old Testament, age seems to be no barrier (Gen. 17:17), neither does sterility (Gen. 25:21) or barrenness (Judg. 13:3; 1 Sam. 1:20). It seems that if God wants a woman to conceive it is not within nature’s capacity to stop Him.
We should stop here in order to take note of something peculiar: all of these births took place in very normal fashion; it is the conceptions that should cause us to look twice. These babies entered the world by the birth canal but they entered the womb by the word of God and apparently nothing can stop God from causing conception whenever and however He wants.
In the New Testament we find the Lord confronting biological blockades once more when He promises Zechariah that his wife will have a son even though she is barren and elderly (Luke 1:7-13). The boy born to Zechariah and Elizabeth eventually finds himself in the wilderness, engaging in his God-given task of spiritual construction; his duty is to ready the hearts of his people for repentance in order that they may be prepared for the most important news of both his day and ours, the birth of Immanuel (John 1:19-23).
And here is where God did something which, even to the eye fixed on the Bible’s births from Genesis onward, overwhelms the soul: God Himself entered our reality not among the headlines of the day but by being conceived in the womb of an unknown, poor virgin (Luke 1:26-33).
Did even the Psalmist have such an entrance in mind when he wrote about the King of glory coming into His world (Ps. 24:7-10)? To enter the human arena God could have unrolled the skies, emptied the oceans, or bowed the mountains but He instead decided to be miraculously conceived in the womb of an impoverished woman! God came down as quietly as He could, almost without notice.
Let us never think that the Lord isn’t at work in the world because of the worrisome headlines that come at us without end – good news of great joy, the most important news of yesterday, today and tomorrow, wasn’t shouted in the streets of Rome or taught in the schools of Greece but announced to near-nobodies in the tucked-away pastures surrounding Bethlehem.