I was at a service this week where the speaker used the analogy of D-day as a picture of the ‘already but not yet’ nature of the Kingdom of God. He spoke of the cross as D-Day. The victory was truly won but the complete apprehension of that victory was still a future event. Like all analogies of God’s activity this has shortcomings but it conveys that we live in a period of time where His Kingdom is not fully realised. We are to pray “thy Kingdom come thy will be done”, and then we are to, in the words of the famous Nike slogan “Just do it”.
While the D-Day analogy pictures this liminal nature of existence, I want to contend that the ‘water shed moment’ the time when victory was sure was the incarnation. The angelic announcement was one of salvation. The Kingdom began effectually with the arrival of the King! The mission of God to rescue a lost humanity is launched from a manger! Christmas changes everything.
I so often find the Church’s celebration of the Incarnation so inadequate. We move from a doctrine lite celebration to accommodate the visitors to a children’s pageant full of shepherds in bathrobes. One is important for its evangelistic opportunity and the other is an important family tradition. But other than the hymns we get little of the importance of the incarnation. We are soon off on the topics of the massacre of the innocents and the arrival of the magi. These too are important topics but we leave the incarnation too soon and too shallow.
As I was stewing about this I got an email requesting me to teach a class on “Incarnational Mission” at Crandall University. It seemed like the Lord was challenging me to put my ‘money where my mouth is’. The one who mildly laid his glory by is our great example. God is still with us. Immanuel promised not to leave us as we engage in the great mission. That mission is to proclaim the humble King who brought salvation to the world. God’s great gift was himself. He became sin though he knew no sin so we might find ourselves in a right relationship with God. It is this ‘becoming’ which is the incarnation. As we proclaim his Kingdom we also live out the great principles of that Kingdom, those of justice and peace.
Perhaps the Church is so weary of the secular celebration of Christmas that we don’t have the energy or attention span to sit long with this powerful doctrine. It informs our understanding of Jesus life and teachings, and it will inform our life lived in accord with those teachings. If the organized Church does not fully explicate this truth then it becomes the task of each mature or maturing Christian to dig into this theme for themselves. I guarantee you won’t be poorer for the effort.