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The Christmas Story

  • December 2020 Issue
Practical Theology

The Bible’s account of the nativity is a story like no other. And while it is a story, it is not fiction. Most stories have a beginning, middle, and end, but the story of Jesus has no beginning. According to Scripture, in the beginning, Jesus “was with God,” and Jesus “was God” (John 1:1). The nativity is the Bible’s record of the time that Jesus, who already existed as God, “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).

The theological term of Christ’s becoming flesh is incarnation. One of the most important truths of the Christian faith, this is about more than God appearing in human form. It is a doctrine about the unity of the divine and human in Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:6 tells us that when Jesus was born, He was already “in very nature God.” At the nativity, Christ took to Himself “the very nature of a servant” by being “found in appearance as a man” (Phil. 2:8). Jesus did this not only to set an example for us but also that He could provide salvation “by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:8).

The fourth-century theologian and church leader Athanasius explained that the incarnation was necessary because “not otherwise could the corruption of men be undone save by death as a necessary condition.” Because Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death, “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9–11).

Through His incarnation, the Savior provided a pattern for all who are in Christ to follow. Just as Jesus did not cling to His rights and privileges that were His as God, we are to have the same mindset in our relationships by putting the interests of others above our own (Phil. 2:4). Because Jesus, who has always existed as God, was raised to everlasting life, we too will be raised. Our story has been joined to His, a story that will never end.

For Further Study

To learn more, read The First Days of Jesus: The Story of the Incarnation by Andreas Kostenberger and Alexander Stewart (Crossway).

BY Dr. John Koessler

John Koessler is Professor Emeritus of Applied Theology and Church Ministries at Moody Bible Institute. John authors the “Practical Theology” column for Today in the Word of which he is also a contributing writer and theological editor. An award-winning author, John’s newest title is When God is Silent: Let the Bible Teach You to Pray (Kirkdale). Prior to joining the Moody faculty, he served as a pastor of Valley Chapel in Green Valley, Illinois, for nine years. He and his wife, Jane, now enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan.

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