When I was a kid in the late 70s we didn’t think much about sun safety. We’d run around all summer in a pair of shorts enjoying the summer sun – no hats, no shirts, no sunscreen. Blistered skin from sunburn was as much a part of summer as cicadas, the beach and cricket on the radio!
However, some time in the mid-80s we worked out that human flesh shouldn’t be repeatedly fried by the summer sun. As deadly cases of skin cancer began to rise, Government sponsored advertising campaigns taught us the weakness of our flesh under the summer sun: “Slip-slop-slap! Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat”. Do you remember the jingle? Try youtubing it!
The human body is incredibly resilient and capable and yet there is weakness to us as well. You’ve heard the expression ‘the spirit is willing but the body is weak’ used as an excuse for when our bodies are too tired to carry on. However, the phrase actually comes from something Jesus taught. He told his disciples not to fall into temptation because the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Matt 26:41).
Jesus was not talking about sunburn and aging bodies. He was saying that human beings have an inherent weakness for giving in to temptation. Temptations come in many forms, big and small, but what he really meant was the things of this world that are contrary to the good that God wants for all of us. Another way to put it is to use the expression: to err is human. The problem is that God in his perfection can’t just let us err against him forever.
Which is why Christmas is so incredible. At Christmas we remember that God saw us struggling with temptations and erring against Him and he chose to help us. He sent his son into our world as our saviour.
I suspect many people know the ‘Jesus is saviour’ part of the Christmas story but I wonder how many know why it is critical that God became flesh? Here are 3 important reasons:
1. By entering creation as a human, Jesus was able to reveal to us what God is like. In John’s gospel he writes “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). So, if you want to know God then look to Jesus: God in the flesh!
2. Jesus showed us what it looks like to live God’s way perfectly in relationship with Him. Jesus was the first and only human to properly live out that God-given human purpose.
3. By taking on human flesh, Jesus was able to understand us and our temptations and weaknesses. He knows our greatest needs which is why he was prepared to die unfairly and to face God’s judgement so that we don’t have to pay for the times we give in to temptations.
By coming in weak human flesh God showed how much he loves us and Jesus left us to respond to him by teaching us: God loved the world so much: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
We all know that the flesh will perish but our great human hope is that by believing in Jesus we will have eternal life and know God forever. Merry Christmas indeed!