It is true that the Incarnation of Christ is a historic event; he actually appeared on earth as a man, and lived in a certain time period, but how are we to benefit from this appearance? How do we benefit today from our Lord’s Incarnation? Are we merely antique and history collectors in our church, or do these events have an actual meaning for us?
When someone starts giving us information on a very high plain, what do we say to him? “Come down to earth, tell us what you mean.” This is exactly what God did for us. Why did he come down to earth?
1. He came down to earth to show us that God is love. He was born, was crucified and suffered, died and resurrected, all out of His love for us. Saint John writes that God is love. As God did this love start and end in a single historic period? No, it is an eternal love for us, just as God is not limited but eternal. He knows what it feels to be like us and blessed us by His incarnation and love.
2. He came down to earth to show us the great forgiveness of God. Saint Athanasius writes that our nature was corrupted and it was not enough for us to repent. It was not the same as the sins we do know. In order to restore this nature he had to become like us and die for us. This is the greatness of forgiveness. “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions” (Psalm 103:11-12). The Cross is at the point where these two cross, and his death is for all of us.
3. He came down to earth to show us that God cares for us, that he hears our prayers. Saint John writes in his first epistle, “And this is the confidence we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). He is the good shepherd and promised that our Fr. in heaven will give good things to those who ask Him.
4. He came down to earth to show us that our destiny is not death, but eternal life. He died and resurrected and ascended to open the door for us to eternal life and the Kingdom of God. Death no longer has dominion over us.
5. He came down to earth not to give us the Golden Rule and other commandments but he taught us how we ought to live. He didn’t just come to give us some high teaching, but we see that he is a real person, a real example of how we ought to live. Imagine knowing an alcoholic. It is easy enough to give him advice, but this advice is cheap. But when we show him others who overcame their addiction, and give him the power to live, then he can fulfill this. Our Lord did the same for us. God saw us in our sinful state, and came down to earth to show us how to overcome sin and be perfect as he is perfect.
6. He came to show us that He has the power over evil. What are some examples? He overcame temptation; He cast out devils; He conquered death by His death. In the last day, he will come again to establish the everlasting Kingdom for all of us.
7. He came down to earth to show us that we are not alone. We are not abandoned as orphans in an empty universe but His name is Emmanuel. And he tells us that He will be with us until the end of the age.
8. He came to earth to lift us to where we belong. He emptied himself to bring us up with Him. We might ask, how could it be possible, how could Jesus be both God and man in one Person, and retain His Divinity? Imperfect analogy of Babe Ruth playing with His son. He throws the ball and hits the ball at a speed and distance that his boy can manage. But does this mean he ceases to be a great baseball play. He empties himself for the sake of his son, and eventually brings him up with him. He does not keep playing at his level even as he grows older. This is the same with God and us. God came down to our level to make it easy for us to know Him
Two analogies of the Incarnation by Saint Athanasius:
1. The Analogy of the King: “You know how it is when some great king enters a large city and dwells in one of its houses and because of his dwelling in that single house, the whole city is honored, and enemies and robbers cease to molest it. So it is with the King of All: He has come into our country and dwelt in one body amidst the many, and in consequence the designs of the enemy against mankind have been foiled and the corruption of death, which formerly held them in its power has simply ceased to be.”
By becoming man dwelling in a human body, in the womb of Saint Mary, he blessed all of mankind, not only in that time, but also at all times. This honor has subjected us from being overcome by the devil.
Saint Athanasius continues: “If a king who has founded a city, which due to the carelessness of the inhabitants is attacked by robbers, he does not, in any way neglect it. Instead, he saves it from destruction and takes revenge from the robbers, having regard to his own honor rather than to the people’s neglect. Much more, then, the Word of the All-Good Fr. was not unmindful of the human race that He had called to be; but rather by the offering of His own body, He abolished the death which they had incurred, and corrected their neglect by His own teaching. Thus, by His own power He restored the whole nature of man.”
In spite of our negligence, God intervened for our salvation, acting not according to our sins, but according to His goodness, His full power and love. To cure us He had to die and He had to teach us. He restored our nature and taught us how to live.
2. The Analogy of the Sun: How is it possible that God came down to this corrupted world, though He is Holy? Imagine that he goes through the worst part of the city full of dugs and violence. Does this make sense?
But Saint Athanasius says that the sun’s rays come into contact with our streets, homes, even garbage dumps, and purifies them without becoming defiled. Just as the sun is not defiled by earthly dirt, but instead, it purifies, the Word was not defiled by being in the body, but rather sanctified it. Just as the sun is not affected by darkness, but rather illuminates it, causing it to disappear. The Lord also enlightened us through baptism and chrismation, allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Just as the sun reveals hidden objects, the Lord “revealed” us as we are meant to be.