Christmas is the time of year when we think about and focus on the incarnation. But one of the dangers is that in doing so at Christmas we only ever teach about it in ways that focus on calling people to follow Jesus rather than the implications for our discipleship. It is right that we make the most of the wonderful opportunity Christmas brings with it's nativity and carol services and ready and willing visitors. But do we forget the lesson of the incarnation the rest of the year?
How did God show his love among us? 1 John 4v9 "In this was the love of God made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world that we might live through him." God shows his love by sending Jesus who comes into the world, becoming God incarnate, Immanuel, God with us. Love sees Jesus leave all the splendour and glory of heaven, not grasping at what was his by right, what he deserved, but laying it aside to become a man.
What does the incarnation teach us? Many things but chief among them must be that love lives alongside of, amongst, amidst those it seeks to love. Just think about the way we parent, we show love not from a distance but by living alongside, amidst, our children in the family. What about church? What about in our communities? I can't help but think that we are losing something of the incarnation aspect of love when we don't live in the communities we seek to reach. I can speak from experience about the value of living in the community you are trying to reach, sending your children to local schools, being at the school gate, living life in the neighbourhood.
Yet there are a number of trends that worry me. Why do we talk about the need for professional distance? Teachers are advised not to get jobs at the school they live near. Doctors don't tend to live in the community their GP practice serves. Even pastors are sometimes living outside of the communities their churches are serving. Certainly many church members live at a distance from their churches. If one of the ways we show love is by being alongside of, amongst, in the midst of those we want to see reached with the gospel why is this happening?
This Christmas we need to preach the love shown by the incarnation but we also need to sit and meditate on the lessons it calls us to learn about how we love those we want to reach with the gospel. What will it mean for us to be God's love incarnate?