The word “incarnation” provoked a restlessness among the participants. In fact, some even left the workshop because they thought the Nehemiah Center was promoting beliefs in “reincarnation.”
This story happened a few years ago here in Nicaragua. A course on Street Psalms Series was being shared and the facilitator spoke about the price Jesus paid to get close to humanity and… “now we are called to incarnate Christ in our communities,” repeated the teacher. But the participants didn’t seem to understand.
The truth is, I myself, with more than 10 years of pastoral youth ministry didn’t understand either. It wasn’t until the facilitator directed us to the passage in John 1:14 that I began to discover the meaning: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth,” recites the text. When we talk about the incarnation of the Son of God, we are talking about the mysterious process through which the eternal and infinite Creator of the universe took on a body of flesh.
As the theologian Juan Stam explains, the term “flesh” implies not just our biological nature, but also our vulnerability and even our inclination toward sin. And that is the human nature that the eternal Word wanted to take on to be born among us. He was not born with some privileged human nature, immune to the temptation and anxieties of our human lives like some species of “Superman” or a divine angel that only appeared to be human. He was truly human.
But what does it mean to “incarnate Christ” in our community? “The Word not only became flesh, but He also lived among us,” explained the facilitator to me.
Jesus didn’t come for a short time or just for an event, but he came to stay among us for more than three decades. He came to walk in our streets, to put up with the dust, the mosquitos, the scarcity, the heat, the thirst, and the hunger. He came to live among us, to listen to our conversations, to participate in the synagogues, to visit us in our illness, to get involved in the lives of the people day and night. “And for that decision to live among us, we were able to discover his glory, his grace, and his truth,” the facilitator told me.
It was on that occasion that I realized that if we want people to see the glory, grace, and truth of God through us, than it is more valuable if we spend time with them, if we walk together, if we share life together, and that we don’t make ourselves superior and distance ourselves from the reality that they are living in. Essentially, we want to go to the places where they are, just as the Son of God did since the first nativity when he became flesh as Immanuel… “which is translated: God with us” (Matthew 1:23).