Son of Adam

So this is Christmas…

And I’m thinking about the Immanuel mystery of the Incarnation. The greatest of all the holy mysteries.

God with us.
With us in our humanity.
God who has become one of us.

What if God were one of us?

In Christ he is.

In the Incarnation we can rightly speak of the humanity of God.

O holy mystery!

Don’t be casual with this mystery.

Let it take your breath away.

Unless you can enter deeply into the mystery of the Incarnation I’m afraid your Christianity will remain shallow, uninspiring and largely legalistic. You will essentially think that Christianity is about rules and rewards and where you go when you die. And in an increasingly secularized and pluralistic culture not too many people are interested in a legalistic afterlife religion. The best hope I know for presenting the gospel in a compelling way to a 21st century audience is to begin with….the beginning: The Incarnation. The breath-taking mystery of God joining us in our humanity.

Think about how the New Testament begins…

“An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” –Matthew 1:1

“Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work. He was the son (as was thought) of Joseph, the son of Heli…son of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God.” –Luke 3:23, 38

The New Testament opens, not with a miracle, not even with the Christmas story, but with a genealogy. Think about that. Jesus is introduced to us with a genealogy. Nothing is more human than a genealogy. And like every human being Jesus has a genealogy. Which means Jesus has ancestors.

Luke’s genealogy traces Jesus’ ancestors all the way back to Adam. Like every human, Jesus is a son of Adam. That’s what it means to be human, to be a son of Adam.

Make sure you keep your theology of Christ orthodox. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human. As the Chalcedonian Creed confesses…

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man.

Jesus is the Son of God and a son of Adam.

The only title Jesus ever used for himself was ”Son of Man.” He affirms the acclamations that he is the Son of God, but when describing himself he exclusively uses the term “Son of Man.”

Interestingly, the term Son of Man in Hebrew is Ben Adam — Son of Adam. It’s even more interesting when you consider that adam (man) is from the word adamah (earth). In the mystery of the Incarnation God has fully and forever united himself with the earthy creation called humanity. (Furthermore, the word human is related to humus; earth or soil; and is also related to the word humble.)

Understanding the Incarnation makes the dualistic, earth-denying, human-denigrating heresies of Gnosticism and Marcionism appear truly heretical. In fact, nearly all the early Christian heresies were rooted in a failure to fully appreciate the Incarnation. And I wish I could say that these heresies were put to rest with the Councils of Nicea and Chalcadon, but I cannot. Far too many Christians today essentially deny the full humanity of Christ. They’re accidental heretics. They don’t mean to be heretics, but they are.

So be amazed and let it take your breath away, but don’t deny it:
God in Christ has become fully and forever human.

God did so to redeem humanity. To redeem humanity, not as disembodied souls, but to redeem the very idea of humanity: a being created as a synthesis of the dust of the ground and the breath of God. An embodied spiritual being designed to bear the image of God and exercise wise and just rule on the earth. When sin threatened to doom God’s idea of humanity, God chose to redeem humanity by doing the unthinkable: In the fullness of time God became human.

And was found wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.

Merry Christmas!

Because of what God has accomplished through the humanity of Jesus Christ, we can have a better hope than escaping humanity, we can actually be human. What does it mean for a person to be saved but for their humanness to be saved? The problem with dualistic religious attempts to escape our humanity is that it forces us to be something other than what we are. Such distorted religion makes us inhuman. And from being inhuman, it’s all too easy to become inhumane. And thus the dark side of religion with its crusades and inquisitions.

But once you understand the Incarnation — that God is with us in humanity — you can never again look with contempt upon your fellow sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. As Jesus said, “In as much as you have done it unto the least of these my brothers, you have done it unto me.” According to Jesus, how we treat the most marginalized of humanity — the impoverished, the imprisoned, the immigrant, and the infirm — is indeed how we treat God. (See Matthew 25)

The implications of the Incarnation are staggering.

Humanity has failed at being human. This is the one sad truth we learn from history. But through his life and through his cross, through his Incarnation and through his Resurrection, Jesus recovers our humanity for us. Jesus is our Savior. Jesus is the Savior of Humanity. Jesus is the Savior of the World.

“Christ has given us an entirely new way of being human.” –Maximus the Confessor

Jesus in himself reconciles God and man. Jesus in himself is the perfect Savior to humanity and the perfect Servant to God. Jesus in himself reveals both God and man. Jesus in his humanity is the full revelation of who God is and who man is to be.

And the Incarnation elevates human culture. What do I mean be human culture? Human culture is the human attempt to be human. Or, as someone has said, it’s what monkeys don’t do. It’s our music, food, art, architecture, athletics, literature, poetry, theater, dance, science, etc. All that which sets us apart from the animals. Jesus as a son of Adam (mankind) engaged in culture. He was a craftsman, he sang, he spoke poetically. Did he dance? I believe so. This is why it is now possible in Christ to do everything that is truly and rightly human to the glory of God.

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
–1 Corinthians 10:31

So whatever you do this Christmas season, whether you decorate a tree, bake cookies, sing carols, do it with a deep consciousness of being fully alive and fully human, and that this is possible because of what Christ has accomplished in his Incarnation and Resurrection. In so doing you glorify God as a redeemed son of Adam, as a redeemed daughter of Eve.

Felix dies Nativitatis