You must be able to believe

On 6 January Christianity celebrates Epiphany to commemorate the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. The Greek word epipháneia was used to designate the arrival of the Roman emperor, and rendered as adventus in Latin.

“… who [Christ Jesus], being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2: 6–7). In other words, Jesus was born as a human being, lived as a human being, and died as a human being. And yet He was God. Already then there were very few who could grasp this in faith. And it really isn’t easy to understand. Or is it?

Not a play, but certainty of faith

Why did God come to mankind? Because it would not have been possible the other way around. The Son of God divested Himself of His divine form and took on the lowliness of human nature. In fact, He took on the form of a bondservant and carried the entire burden of sin. This is how He bridged the gulf separating God and man and demonstrated His divine nature in devotion and love.

One might be inclined to think of a play: somebody dresses up and plays a role. Normally, actors do not play themselves but someone else. In the case of Jesus it was different. He did not need a disguise, but remained who He was: true Man and true God. Neither did He have an audience or receive applause. He was not born in Hollywood. He did not come as a king. Nor did He come for a quick visit only to leave again. No, He came to earth as a tiny naked infant. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3: 17).

This is something one must be able to believe. And not only that: faith requires works.

Learning to let go, assuming responsibility

Jesus’ appearance serves as an example: the followers of Christ want to approach their neighbour as an equal and in humility, and not in a condescending or arrogant manner. They want to appreciate and value the weak, the losers, and those on the margins of society.

Christ did not cling to the fact (“did not consider it robbery”) that He was equal with God, but left the glory of His Father of His own free will and voluntarily submitted to the restrictions of human existence. He did this completely unselfishly and came to mankind in order to serve. In return, we should not worry about ourselves too much or selfishly cling to our possessions, but take heart, reach out and share with others. Let us not only use our gifts and skills to benefit ourselves, but also use them to serve others. Neither the power of money, ambition, nor selfishness should dictate our lives. Instead, let us take responsibility and make Christ’s appearance, His actions, and His serving the standard for our own actions: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3: 15).

Photo: Oliver Rütten

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Peter Johanning
Christian holidays, Congregational life