At the heart of historic Christianity resides an astounding truth-claim celebrated around the world at Christmas—the doctrine of the Incarnation: God became man in Jesus of Nazareth. This truth sets Christianity apart from all other religions (including Judaism and Islam). It is unique to Christianity to discover a God who takes the initiative in becoming flesh in order to redeem sinful human beings. As C. S. Lewis aptly put it, “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”1
Christianity’s theistic view of God sets the proper context for understanding the Incarnation. The God unveiled in the Bible is the one sovereign and majestic Lord. Historic Christianity affirms belief in one infinitely perfect, eternal, and personal (or superpersonal) God, the transcendent Creator and sovereign Sustainer of the universe. This one God is Triune, existing eternally and simultaneously as three distinct and distinguishable persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three persons in the Godhead share equally and completely the one divine nature, and are therefore the same God, coequal in attributes, nature, and glory.
The term “incarnation” is of Latin origin, and literally means “becoming in flesh” (Lat. in carne, Gk. en sarki). While the Latin term is not contained in Scripture per se, the Greek equivalent is (John 1:14: Kai ho logos sarx egeneto—“And the Word became flesh”). The Incarnation sits at the heart of the biblical message because it reveals the person and nature of Jesus Christ. It teaches that the eternal Logos (Word), the Son, without diminishing His deity took to Himself a fully human nature. Specifically, this doctrine teaches that a full and undiminished divine nature and a full and perfect human nature were inseparably united in the one historical and divine person of Jesus. According to Scripture, Jesus Christ is God the Son in human flesh (theanthropos, the God-man).
During the Christmas season, Christians celebrate the great truth of the Incarnation. In the Christ-child of Bethlehem God enters into human history and reveals Himself up close and personal. The astounding truth is that in Jesus, we encounter God in a real, personal, historical, and tangible way.
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), 154. In this quote, Lewis slightly rephrases a statement made by the ancient church father Athanasius (ca. 296–373).