It's time for preachers to think about the Carols services, Christingles, Nativity plays, etc.
It's also a time to miss a golden opportunity. The golden opportunity is to preach a theology of incarnation. But, year in and year out, this chance is missed in evangelical churches.
Our mentions of incarnation boil down to the Abrupt, the Apologetic or the Anselmian.
“God in skin. Weird huh? Anyway…”
“Jesus shows up in time and space which means that we can verify the truth through historical methods, and really the New Testament documents are very reliable don’t you know…”
“God basically wants to acquit his elect and so needs a Scapegoat to take the fall. And there he is the manger. Weird huh? Anyway…”
My twitter feed is full of encouragements to preachers to 'get beyond the manger'. Many people seem worried that preachers might focus on the wonder of the incarnation itself. At Christmas! The very idea.
I completely agree that crib and cross go together, but if that's true, where are all the Easter encouragements: "Hey preachers! Don't forget the incarnation on Good Friday!" The answer is nowhere. Which is a problem.
I'd love to hear three different 'A's this Christmas. I'd love for preachers to bring out the Athanasian, Atoning, and Abasing themes.
The Athanasian Incarnation:
“In this marvellous exchange, He becomes what we are, that we might become what He is”?
The Atoning Incarnation:
"Here is God-With-Us, come to make us at-one in His very Person!"
The Abasing Incarnation:
"My God is so small, so weak and so helpless, there's nothing that He will not do... for you!"
I wonder if we shy away from the Athanasian incarnation because we don't want to get into (or don't properly understand) the trinitarian theology that makes sense of it.
I wonder if we shy away from the Atoning incarnation because ontology has no place in our thinking about atonement. This is also why our Easter sermons contain no theology of resurrection - only a 'proof that the cross worked'.
I wonder if we shy away from the Abasing incarnation because we default to a theology of glory and are uncomfortable with the little LORD Jesus.
If any of these guesses are anywhere near the mark, let me suggest a remedy. Read Athanasius' On the Incarnation and hear the kind of Christmas message that has warmed the hearts of millions down through the ages. Get started here as you listen to Mike Reeves read extracts.
And for what they're worth, here are three of my own posts on incarnation:
Incarnation and Trinity
Incarnation and Creation
Incarnation and Salvation
(For good measure here’s a paper on Athanasius and Irenaeus)
These are some talks in which I've tried to preach this theology...
Evangelistic carols service – Four Approaches to Christmas (and to Life) Isaiah 9:2-7
Christmas is God laying hold of us - Hebrews 2:14-18
Christmas is for Dark Places
The Coming King - Psalm 72
In the beginning… – John 1:1-2
The Word became flesh – John 1:14
Christmas brings a crisis – John 1:15-18
Student Carols – Isaiah 9 (different to the other Isaiah 9)
All-age: Christmas turns slaves to sons – Galatians 4:4-7
All-age Carols Talk: Christmas is weird – Phil 2:5-11
Here are some all-age songs on the same theme and our Christmas videos
What resources have you found helpful? Please share the wealth in comments...