In 1937, fundamentalist radio broadcaster and activist Carl McIntire published a widely distributed pamphlet entitled “Why Should Christians Be Kind to the Jews?” At the outset of the Second World War, the pamphlet was written to deter Anti-Semitism in America, Nazi Germany, and across the world. As a prominent figure in the emerging Religious Right, McIntire gave voice to something called “American Zionism,” a movement begun at the end of the nineteenth century advocating the creation of a new homeland for Jews in Palestine. For McIntire, the unavoidable truth for Christians is that “Jesus Christ was a Jew. Jesus Christ is a Jew today.” McIntire’s statement was as theological as it was political, and one that many Christians could potentially pass over without understanding its eternal significance. In reality, McIntire was making a profound assertion about the Incarnation of our Lord: the Word became Jewish flesh…and remained so.
This Christmas the church celebrates the God we affectionately call Immanuel. (Matt. 1:23) By uniting fleshly humanity with the second Person of the Triune God, Yahweh has “tabernacled” with us in Jesus. (John 1:14) He is with us, and Christians rejoice in this glorious “coming” during the Advent season. In what seems unthinkable to perhaps every other religion on earth, Christianity boasts that its Savior and King was born in a barn. And it’s precisely in that barn that three earthly kings prostrated in worship to a child in a manger. (Matt. 2:11) He was born to die for the sins of His people. (1:21) After declaring His divine work to be finished and breathing His last upon a cross, this Jesus then rose again on the third day and after forty days, ascended to the right hand of the Father.
In celebration of this Gospel, millions of Christians will sing this holiday, “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” Thanks to the birth of Christ, we can be birthed into a royal family and be called sons and daughters of God. (John 1:12, 3:3) However, a common misperception in the modern church is that after finishing his earthly ministry, Jesus ascended into heaven, took off his humanity, and hung it up on the heavenly coat rack eager to resume His previous station as the Son of God. Unfortunately, this ignores more than clear biblical teaching. It also misses out on the full meaning of Christ’s role as Advocate. The Son of God took on flesh. And for our sake, He will keep it.
Paul writes to Timothy, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. 2:5) Paul isn’t speaking in past tense. Jesus is still our Mediator. Therefore He is still a man born of Mary. The author of Hebrews is clear that Christ’s mediation doesn’t simply entail atonement for sins; it’s twofold. Jesus must become man in order to die and in order to intercede on our behalf eternally: “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to making propitiation for the sins of His people.” The author then explains why it was necessary to have a God-Man. In stark contrast to mortal priests, “Jesus, on the other hand, because he continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently.” (Heb. 2:17, 7:24) The Son of God is incarnate forever because He intercedes for us forever. He is priest eternally. Jesus is still the God-Man today, and this is precisely why He will return as the God-Man.
When we celebrate Christmas, we do so not simply out of thankfulness for what God did in Christ Jesus; we also glory in what God does and will do in Christ Jesus eternally. (Herein lies the dual meaning of “Advent”) Immanuel isn’t a temporary nickname for God; it’s an eternal truth upon which we stand as those who will share the incorruptible flesh of our King in heaven. This is the full meaning of “God with us.” This is also why Paul calls Jesus “the first fruits” of those who will be resurrected from the dead. (1 Cor. 15:20) The God-Man is the celestial prototype for an entire line of resurrected kings and queens modeled after and conformed to the Son, Himself the image of the invisible God. (Col. 1:15)
When Thomas feels the scars of Jesus, He’s touching a different kind of flesh, the first of its kind. But not the last. (John 20:27; 1 Cor. 15:44-45) This Christmas we celebrate a God who was born in a barn in order to become one Spirit and one flesh with His bride forever. This is the miracle of Christmas. This is the love and humility of our Lord. This is the Gospel.
“And, in short, the achievements of the Savior, effected by his incarnation, are of such a kind and number that if anyone should wish to expound them he would be like those who gaze at the expanse of the sea and wish to count its waves.” -Athanasius, On the Incarnation