God Takes the Initiative
The direction of the action matters!
You may be thinking, “What in the world is our Pastor talking about?” Well, I want to contrast two directions of action. This first is an action that starts from on high and moves downward. The second is an action that starts from below and moves upward.
James writes in the New Testament, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (1:17). So what I am talking about by the direction of the action is whether it is God’s action coming down from on high or human action attempting to ascend upward.
I agree with the Luther and the Lutheran Confessions that Christianity is primary about God’s action, a downward motion. Religion in general can often be all about human attempts to aspire to God, an upward motion. The quintessential act of God was that of the Son of God who “For us and for our salvation came down from heaven” (Nicene Creed). This descent involved the Divine One assuming our humanity (the Incarnation), then suffering and dying for our sins, rising from the dead, ascending to heaven with the promise to return for us at the end of the age.
The problem with our upward activity is that our lack of humility and trust in God and His Word is what got us to sink into the pit of sin and death in the first place. Our attempts to climb are futile. They result in falling deeper. But there is no futility or limitation in God’s ability to come all the way down, and then to ascend again on high bearing in His ascending all who entrust themselves to His arms of mercy.
The downward action, can by grace, initiate a response in us where we can reach up to God in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving! But only by His initiative!
Since You Asked…
What is the meaning of the Incarnation?
The word incarnation is taken from Latin term incarnatio. It literally means “taking flesh” and in the Christian Faith it refers to God becoming human. In John 1:14 we learn of God the Son becoming flesh with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed the child born to Mary was a man, but it is the insistence of the Christian Faith that Jesus was also fully God. He is sometimes called the God-Man. Without ceasing to be fully divine, inseparable and equal to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit; God the Son also fully assumed our humanity in the womb of the Virgin Mary. In this way Jesus mediates God to man and then also represents man to God. The mystery of the Incarnation becomes a necessary means by which Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplishes our salvation.