Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:10-14)
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:20-23)
Historically speaking, the birth of Jesus was a real, one-time event. A young woman in rural Judea did give birth to a boy who would later change the world. He was born into a world of Caesars, revolutionaries, legalists, shepherds, and astrologers. Theologically, we call this event the Incarnation (of course). Again, this was a one-time even; God came to us as the man Jesus once and after he had died and was resurrected, he ascended into the heavens.
We might be tempted to end the Incarnation story, Christmas itself, at that point. Jesus is born, his work is set out before him and that’s that. But, in a very real way, the Incarnation is more than a historical event. It is an ongoing event, a present reality, that has continued for the past 2,000 years. The Incarnation continues today, both in and through the church Jesus himself established.
This Jesus, as the above passages say, is both God with us and our savior. This reality has not ended. While his physical body is no longer present for us to see, Jesus Christ continues to “incarnate” himself to the world, saving mankind. At different times, and in many different ways (to paraphrase the writer of Hebrews), God speaks to us in his son.
The connection between these realities is Pentecost. Christmas brings us face to face with a creator God who would humble himself to our level, Easter shows us the beginnings of the culmination of God’s plan, and Pentecost tells us the work is not yet done.
The incarnation continues today, all these years later, because there are those who have not heard the news. They have not been given the annoucement, not been invited to the royal feast, have not yet been told of their new Lord. The incarnation continues because the enemy is not yet under Jesus’ foot.