The Story of the Incarnation
Many think of Christmas as “the most wonderful time of the year.” But why? When you take a closer look at the reasons why people celebrate Christmas, it turns out that Christmas is often more about commercialism than Christ. If we are honest with ourselves, we will probably realize that the reason we do much of what we do at Christmas is cultural tradition, not Christ. This observation is not meant to produce an Ebenezer Scrooge-like disdain for Christmas traditions; rather, it is to highlight the differences between traditional Christmas celebrations and the reality and significance of the incarnation.
What do you think the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ birth would think of our modern Christmas celebrations? Most likely, they would be amazed at the way in which our holiday traditions fail to do justice to this amazing event in human history. Yet while we can’t go back in time and witness the events firsthand, we do have reliable accounts of the birth of Jesus in the Gospels. A slow, careful walk through the infancy narratives will give you a glimpse of what truly happened and help us see the birth of Jesus with new eyes.
To view the video on the “Introduction” to The First Days of Jesus course offered at the The Gospel Coalition, click here.
Taking a Closer Look[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]If we want to know the true significance of Jesus’ incarnation, we need to pay careful attention to the original context of the birth narratives in the Gospels.[/tweet_box]
These narratives are reliable and based on eyewitness accounts, but they don’t look exactly like the Christmas card and Nativity scene renditions of the event. This closer look requires both a vertical and a horizontal reading. A vertical reading means reading each narrative “as a self-contained story in its own right” (21–22). A horizontal reading means “exploring how each presentation relates to the others in a complementary fashion, jointly witnessing to the same historical reality, statements, and events” (22). This study also aims to be exegetical, historical, and devotional. It is exegetical in that it pays careful attention to the words in the text; it is historical in that it situates the birth narratives in their first-century context; and it is devotional in that it aims to draw us closer to God.
Over the next 5 days leading up to Christmas, we’ll explore the story of the incarnation as we take a closer look at the birth of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. Each day, we’ll look at each respective Gospel on its own terms and highlight unique emphases, in addition to comparing the narratives that the Gospels have in common. As we do, we hope that you will sense the wonder of the incarnation in this Christmas season.
To access the rest of The First Days of Jesus course offered at The Gospel Coalition, click here. You can purchase The First Days of Jesus here. The chapter summaries were written by Mark Baker and edited by Andreas Köstenberger. Mark Baker is a Ph.D. student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.