The summer before our wedding, Tommy took a job setting up giant inflatables for parties. He went to graduation parties, birthday parties, church and business events and set up enormous jump houses, inflatable volleyball courts and the like. It was grueling work. I began to notice charges on our newly combined checking account, 3 or 4 visits to Sonic of QuikTrip for Diet Coke. We were trying to save money so I got after him. In response, he invited me to join him to set up several inflatables in an open field in the heat of the day. Within an hour, I was hot, shaky, and dying of thirst. With a new empathy and gratitude for his labor, I quickly agreed to a much larger Diet Coke budget.
As silly as that example is, the truth is that entering into the experience of another moves us to compassion in new ways. Not only are we better able to empathize with the person, we are better equipped to come alongside and help them in the midst of their struggle. In Hebrews 2:10-18, describes Jesus’ Incarnation, his becoming human in order to save us from the powers of Sin and Death. Only by becoming like us and experiencing death could he, “break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (vs. 14-15)
It is uncomfortable and even shocking to think of God becoming flesh. For that reason, the ancients proposed alternative understandings of the Incarnation. “Well, he was God and in a human body, but not totally human. More like a human suit.” Or “He was God, but when he in the flesh, he had to set aside that divinity for awhile.” Wrong. Jesus was fully God and fully human. Athanasius, an ancient church father said, “Jesus became what we are that we might become what he is.” Jesus became human in order that we too might be called daughters and sons of God, adopted into God’s family. Through the incarnational work of Jesus, the fully human one, we too can become fully human, free from Sin and alive to God. Real life!
Thanks be to God for the gift of his son, the Divine and Human One!
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Grace and Peace.