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The Incarnation of Christ

The earliest Christians called Jesus of Nazareth, "the Word made flesh", in order to signify, and praise, how in the human person of Jesus, God and divine wisdom, or Logos, became incarnate in human form (Miles 2005: 1). Nowhere more than in Luke 1 and John 1, is the doctrine of the incarnation more clear, and in its most key feature, of how there is "a substantial presence of God within Christ" (McGrath 1994: 304). In the form of Jesus Christ, the incarnation "does not reveal the mystery of God as God, but rather God incarnate" (Jones 1995: 4). Of the two referents, God and Jesus, "neither one is known apart from the other" (Del Colle 1997: 123). The incarnation is, in a soteriological sense, the redaction of God's wisdom in human temporality, in the flesh of Jesus.

In John 1, the divine Logos was in the beginning with God and was God (John 1:1), and then became flesh in Jesus Christ. Hence too, the pre-existence of Christ before his earthly life is asserted, beside how the "identity and differentiation between Christ and the Father are maintained" (Del Colle 1997: 124). With the incarnation, "what had been only an ideal [Wisdom] within Judaism was regarded within Christianity from the standpoint of the decisive fact of the incarnation" (Lohse 1985: 38-39). As a consequence of the doctrine of the incarnation, in order to know God, Christians have the example of Jesus, and Jesus Christ becomes the decisive fact of Christianity.

At such times, and for Christians today, the injunction from Scripture is the same as that offered in Luke 1, to praise God and remember the covenant of God to his people (Luke 1: 72), to ask for the knowledge of salvation (Luke 1: 77), and to continue hoping and trusting in God even as we live "in the shadow of death" (Luke 1: 79). "Incarnation in times of terror demands that we flee from the temptation to hide in the comfort of metaphysics and commit to our flesh and the flesh of others as the sites through which redemptive praxis unfolds" (Isherwood 2005: 79). Isherwood's call is to commit to all flesh, even that of our erstwhile enemies. Brent Waters warns against the direction of modern biology to transmute flesh into data in the name of self-transformation, instead of flesh transformed by the will of God into service of God (Waters 2005). Christians should not be distracted by any contemporary fetishisation of the body - the doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus highlights the perfect redaction of flesh into the timeless service of God.

John begins with a wonderful cascade of coalescent spatial and temporal deictic markers: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning" (John 1: 1-2). While in Luke human geography and time are foregrounded (Luke 1: 5), in John a fusion of the spatial and the temporal signifies how God made incarnate in the flesh of Jesus Christ still transcends both space and time, and indicates finally our ultimate fate beyond data, beyond death.

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