Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Philippians 2:5-11 in the Contemporary English Version (CEV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: There’s one other question that journalists often add to the five Ws: How?
It’s easy to answer the question, how did the incarnation take place? We don’t know.
Not only do we not know, we are counselled not to try to figure it out. Ellen White wrote, “My brother, when you are tempted to speak of God, where He is, or what He is, remember that on this point silence is eloquence. Take off your shoes from off your feet, for the ground on which you are placing your careless, unsanctified feet, is holy ground” (Letter 253, to John Harvey Kellogg, Nov. 20, 1903).
I will certainly not attempt to answer the question as to how the incarnation took place. We do not know. It has not been revealed to us. It must not be important for us to know. However, I do think we have more reason to believe, or conceptualize, how an event such as this might have occurred than did Mary and Joseph when they were visited by the angels. We now have a growing, but perhaps still cursory, knowledge of what is called assisted reproductive technology (ART).
Let me stress this again—we do not know any more about how the Holy Spirit “came upon” Mary, “overshadowed” her, and “conceived in her” a “holy thing” than she did. But we do know something of which Mary was unaware—it is possible, even commonplace now, for conception to take place without the woman “knowing” a man. This knowledge does not clear up the mystery, nor does it make the event any less miraculous. But I believe it does add evidence for our belief in the incarnation, and it leaves us no room to ridicule the idea of a miraculous conception, as have many religious cynics.
Having said that, it’s still easy to answer the question, how did the incarnation take place? We don’t know.
In tomorrow’s sermon we will address the question why? Why did the God of the Universe, Creator of all we see, humble Himself and become a baby, born of a woman into a culture in which legalistic perversion of the law was the norm? (See Galatians 4:4, Complete Jewish Bible.)
Recalibrate: Does it irritate you, or does it help your faith to realize that there are mysteries in the Plan of Salvation that we just can’t comprehend?
Respond: Pray for humility of spirit and a clearer understanding of those things which have been revealed to us.
Research: Read Chapters 1-4 in The Desire of Ages: “God With Us," “The Chosen People,” “The Fulness of the Time,” and “Unto You a Saviour.”
Remember: “Jesus has always been as God is” (Philippians 2:6a, NLV).
Mark is executive director of the public health department in Jefferson County, one of the most populous counties in the state of Colorado. He received his medical training at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University and is board certified in preventive medicine and public health. He is chair of the vision board at Boulder Adventist Church where he is a regular preacher. Mark is married to Diane and they have two adult children and three granddaughters.
Jesus was God and human all at once. It’s crazy to think about and even crazier to explain. Are there things that are hard for you to explain to your child? What are they? Why are they so difficult to explain? Sometimes we cannot comprehend certain things about God, but that never means we should stop asking questions and learning more about Him. What are you doing to encourage your child to ask questions?
How can you be two things at once? Jesus said He was fully human like you and me, and fully God. How do you think that is possible? It would be like a candy being a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and a Starburst. That just doesn’t sound like it could be! It can be hard to understand that God was born as a baby just like you and I were and grew up as a kid just like you. God reminds us that He doesn’t want to just take care of us from far away, but He wants to be with us.
God is in the business of doing impossible things. Interwoven throughout the Bible are stories about God doing unexpected things. To name a few: a flood to cover the whole earth even though rain didn’t exist, a nation promised to a couple who didn’t have a child until their old age, a talking donkey, defeating an entire army with only 300 people, tearing down the walls of Jericho by marching, and having a virgin give birth to the Son of God. I think God does things like that so that there is no conceivable way that we as humans could take credit for them or take ownership of the miracles. God gave us His son in the form of a baby to show that He is capable of anything and that this baby is special. As we enter into a new year, I challenge you to pray God-sized prayers. Pray prayers over your life and your family’s life that are so big that you won’t be able to take credit for the outcome. Pray that God moves in radical ways in your life, so much so that you won’t be able to receive the glory for the outcome.