Each week during this year’s Advent series, we will take a look at a specific implication of Christ’s incarnation, beginning with the fact that in the Incarnation, God takes on his own image. And in this way, he weds his creation to the incarnation.
"Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Gen. 1:26)
Creation was not a cosmic blunder by a flunky angel who spilled a beaker in heaven’s laboratory. Nor did anyone strong-arm our Lord into making things. In the beginning, God created. On purpose. He wanted to. He’s really into stuff. Stuff like gorillas and galaxies. Stuff like atoms and Adams. Our Father actually likes materiality.
This is a truth that gets Mr. I’m-So-Spiritual all in a tizzy. For him the spiritual > material. For him, created stuff, far from being inherently spiritual, is an impediment to “true spirituality.” What matters, says the Hyper-Spiritual man, is the invisible, the intangible, the non-material. To his way of thinking, the Spirit never gets his hands wet, much less dirty.
The Spirit Likes the Earthy
In the Bible, however, it’s not The Spiritual versus The Material. That is a false dichotomy. Spiritual stuff is in material stuff. Anyone who has spent more than five seconds in Leviticus, for instance, knows that this book of the Spirit is all about meat, fat, blood, bones, bread, water, gold, silver, bronze, and lots of humanity. These material objects are objects used by the Spirit of God.
And why go all the way to Leviticus? In Genesis 1-2, when the Lord wanted to make two objects that imaged him, who were like him, who visually represented him, he did not craft two disembodied ghosts who muttered mantras in ethereal voices. From dirt he made a man. From the man’s flesh and bone, he built a woman. Those made in God’s image have teeth, toes, and a tummy. They eat, drink, and have sex. And this was what the Lord wanted. Physical images of himself who would serve as kings and queens of creation.
In Eden, therefore, indeed in all creation, we learn that the work of the Spirit is inherently earthy. The Spirit makes trees and seas. The Spirit made man and woman. The Spirit likes to get his hands both wet and dirty. Our Lord is not embarrassed by creation. He revels in it. And he reveals by means of it as well.
Jingle Bells in Eden
What does he reveal? God reveals, first and foremost, that he is quite comfortable being represented by human beings. They are his glory. They are his delight. Adam and Eve were the walking, talking icons of God on earth.
Secondly, in Genesis 1-2, the Lord reveals—or, at a bare minimum, starts dropping some big hints—that he will be quite comfortable becoming a human being himself someday. The farther we read in Scripture, the clearer this becomes. He’s taking a stroll in the garden in Genesis 3, as well as promising a human offspring to Eve who will crush the Serpent’s head. When he dropped in to visit old Abraham, he and his two angels sat down to a meal of mutton (Genesis 18). When he appeared as a Messenger to Samson’s mom and dad, he was so strikingly human-looking that they both initially thought he was an ordinary man (Judges 6 and 13).
Over and over in the Old Testament, the Lord appears in very human ways. He’s even described as having a face, hands, feet, ears, heart, etc. Each time God is depicted in human ways, we see a wink of what’s to come.
The creation of humanity in the image of God is, therefore, a kind of prophecy of the incarnation. There would be another Adam, a “last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45). In him would be a re-genesis of the world. In Eden, when the Lord made man and woman, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
How to Really Be Spiritual
Forty weeks before Christmas came, after the archangel visited the young virgin, Mary, God assumed his own image. The Word became flesh. He first became so tiny you’d need a microscope to see him. There, floating down the fallopian tube, and folded into the uterus of Mary, was the Son of God, now everlastingly one of us.
Beginning with the incarnation, God has skin in the game of our salvation.
In this physical body—this body of blood and bones and brain and brawn—here was God. Here, indeed, is still God. Talk about the spiritual married to the earthy! In this man, who is fully human and fully divine, is also the fulness of the Spirit. We can’t have the Spirit without the physical for the Spirit is bound to the humanity of Jesus.
So, you want to be a really spiritual person? Good. Me too. We get really spiritual the deeper we go into the physical body and blood of Jesus. The Spirit is in the man Jesus, the Creator who’s also a creature.
The birth of the Son of God weds Genesis 1 to Matthew 1, creation to incarnation. Therefore, if there were ever any doubt as to what the Lord thought of creation, and his willingness to give us the gifts of the Spirit in material stuff, the Son of God taking on our humanity confirmed that forever.
What, then, can we expect when Mary’s Expecting?
An uncreated God
Of blood and skin and bone.
A Lord within a womb
Who sits on heaven’s throne.
The Father’s only Son
Who’ll nurse at Mary’s breast.
The ever-watchful King
Asleep on Joseph’s chest.
Creator of the stars,
With diapers on his bum.
The right hand of the Lord
Who’ll suck his tiny thumb.