By Ruth Menge
As we get ready for Christmas eve we remember the first coming of Jesus. But the incarnation can be traced a bit further back. As Luke tells it:
“Six months after Elizabeth became pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee. The angel went to a virgin promised in marriage to a descendant of David named Joseph. The virgin’s name was Mary.”
Holy Scriptures go on to tell of Mary’s surprise at the angel’s appearance, and his reassurance that she had found favor with God. The angel spoke this word of promise to Mary: “You will conceive, and give birth to a son.”
This is typical for the Bible: “conceive and give birth.” The two belong to the same natural activity. When God chose to take on human flesh to save human people, He humbled Himself to follow the natural pattern: conceive and give birth.
Reverend Edward Fehskens, writing about the Annunciation (the time when Gabriel “announced” to Mary God’s plan) says this: “Luke’s Gospel records the response of Jesus’ mother to the angel’s announcement that she had been chosen to bear the Savior of the world: ‘Let everything you’ve said happen to me.’ Before this moment of his conception God the son was not yet man; but from this moment onward he was man.”
Fehnskens sums up the teaching of the Church: “Jesus’ first dwelling was not Bethlehem or Nazareth, but the womb of a young virgin named Mary.”
In the early history of the Christian Church, followers of Jesus looked for language that expressed the unique status of Jesus as both human and divine. Capturing this dichotomy, the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) affirmed Jesus as both man and God in this way: “We confess the Holy Virgin to be Mother of God because God the Word was made flesh and became man from the very moment of conception.”
Jesus’ first dwelling was not Bethlehem or Nazareth, but the womb of a young virgin named Mary.
John Saward, author of Redeemer in the Womb, stated, “The Incarnation was effected in Nazareth but manifested in Bethlehem. The adventure of being human began for the eternal Son at the moment of his conception.”
So this Christmas Eve, as we think again of angels and shepherds, of mangers and magi, remember the moment God took on human flesh, not only as the Babe of Bethlehem, but some nine months earlier, as the eternal Son of God found Himself dependent on the care and nurture of a young woman’s womb.
As we remember the miracle of Jesus’ birth, we also recall the miracle of His incarnation: God in the flesh, Emmanuel, for us.