Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:5-7
The “Yes” of Jesus
The coming of God in-the-flesh began with a “yes.” It is true that Mary said “yes” to Gabriel which is an amazing display of childlike faith. Mary’s “yes” was not the first “yes” required for the Incarnation to take place however. It is important to remember that Creation and the Incarnation are inextricable. God’s commitment of Himself to this finite and fragile creation is a first act of self-humiliation on God’s part—an act continued in His descent into flesh, reaching its pinnacle in Christ’s self-surrender to death on the cross. “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8) reveals there was already a cross in the heart of God before the world was created. Thus, the plan for God to be a human was a Trinitarian plan. The Father loved and sent, the Son humbled himself and came, and the Spirit conceived and empowered.
The “Yes” of Mary
In the Greek text, Gabriel speaks 118 words, whereas Mary utters only 17. This disproportion may be due to the enormity of the announcement, but it also seems to highlight Mary’s submission. It is simple obedience. In essence, after the enormity of the implications of Gabriel hits Mary, she simply says “so be it.”
The combination of Jesus’ “yes” and Mary’s “yes” are the reason we have hope. Without the incarnation—without Jesus doing what Adam as an individual and Israel as a nation did not do—we would be stuck in our mess. Instead, we have hope. It must be noted that the “yesses” of Jesus and Mary are not based in contractual or legal terms—they are based in relationship. The very life of Jesus is not simply about transactions. His actions proceed from His being, not the other way around. It must be at the top of one’s mind continually that the Incarnation, Ministry, Atonement, Resurrection and other events in the life of Jesus are mysteries of His being, not simply transactions—even the atonement. Jesus as YHWH en-fleshed, is “I Am-ing”— not transacting. The narrative shows Jesus being the Redeemer, not doing redemption. Jesus’ “I Am” sayings in John’s gospel demonstrate this claim. Irenaeus would say that Mary’s delivery of Jesus from her womb delivers humans, not something He did later.
In His birth, the births of all humanity are recapitulated. And in His circumcision all humans are afforded the opportunity to become a Jew. (Col. 2:11) Likewise, in His baptism, temptation, cross, and resurrection, Jesus recapitulates the failures of humanity and turns them into triumph by being God in flesh. And now, Jesus shows us what it is like to live in a glorified human body—the first fruits of the resurrection—because the most amazing thing about the Incarnation to me is that when the Godhead decided the Word would become flesh—it was a forever decision. Jesus never stopped being God, but He has also never stopped being human. He died as a human, was resurrected as a human, ascended as a human, sat down after the finished work as a human, and is coming back as the God-man. When YHWH put on skin, He kept it on. Amazing. May you have a blessed Advent season.