November 1, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 2:6-7, John 1:14 (NRSV)
While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
The same God who created all things—including our bodies—as good is the God who came to dwell among us as an embodied person. Jesus, fully God and fully human, entered the world through birth, just like the rest of us. The Incarnation of the Word of God strongly affirms the fundamental goodness of creation, including human bodies. Though corrupted by sin, the basic goodness of our bodies remains.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I began exploring foundational biblical truth related to our bodies. That truth is found in Genesis 1-2, in the creation accounts. There we see that God created us as embodied beings and that what God created was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Though sin ends up messing up the goodness of God’s creation, including our bodies, it does not erase the basic truth of the original goodness of our bodies.
God chose to overcome the problem of sin in a way that reinforces the goodness of embodied human life. God did not wipe out creation and start again. God did not reveal secret truth that allows us to escape from our embodied reality. God did not shout from the heavens whatever we would need to be saved. Rather, God chose to enter the world as an incarnate human being.
Though Christians believe that Jesus’s conception was miraculous, we recognize that his birth happened in the usual way (Luke 2:6-7). At least that’s true with regard to the physical process. His birth in a stable was obviously unusual. But God chose to enter this world in the way all human beings since Adam and Eve enter it, by being born of a woman. That fact in and of itself says something powerful about the value of embodied human life.
What Luke describes in a story, John’s gospel describes theologically. In John 1:14 we read, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” The divine Word of God, the Word through which God created all things, the Word that was with God and was God (John 1:1-3), that very Word was born in a stable in Bethlehem. That Word became flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:14).
Theologians explain that the Incarnation (the technical term for the Word made flesh) was necessary in order for Jesus to save humanity by dying on the cross in our place. I believe that is true, thanks be to God! But the Incarnation tells us more than that Jesus can be our Savior. It also makes a powerful statement about the fundamental goodness of human embodiment. God chose to be born as a human baby. God chose to become fully human (though Jesus was also fully God). God chose to take on a body, a real, tangible, vulnerable human body.
We do not have a gnostic savior, an unembodied spirit-being that tells us the secret to salvation. Rather, we have a Savior who was a true human being. According to Hebrews, Jesus “had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect” so that he might serve our faithful high priest (Hebrews 2:17). Though Jesus did not sin, he nevertheless is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). He knows what it’s like to be human, to be an embodied being.
The combination of the creation and the Incarnation packs a powerful theological punch. This combination reveals the fundamental value and goodness of our bodies. And it causes us to wonder how we might experience the goodness today, in spite of the ravages of sin. I’ll work on this wondering tomorrow. For now, you may find it helpful to reflect on the following questions.
When you think about the fact that God became human in Jesus, how do you respond? What thoughts or feelings do you have?
In what ways does it matter to you that Jesus understands what it’s like to be human? How does this make a difference in how you act? How do you feel? How do you pray?
Use your body today to do something that honors God.
Gracious God, thank you for becoming one of us. Thank you for taking on human flesh. Thank you for choosing to dwell among us, to understand what it’s like to be human. Thank you for becoming an embodied human being so that, through the sacrifice of that body, you might save us from sin and death.
Help me, Lord, to consider in a new way the value of my body. Help me to use my body for good, even as I do battle with the impact of sin. Teach me how I can honor you in the way I inhabit and deploy my body in this world. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: God at Work (Luke 1, 2, and 4)
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.