Pastors Corner


Another page has turned on another year. Welcome to 2024. As the page turns perhaps you, like me, are tempted toward a couple of different postures. First, we may be tempted to look back. The “should haves,” “would haves,” and “wanted to’s” of last year loom large & we pledge to accomplish more “should haves” “would haves” and “wanted to’s” in the new year. Or, we’re tempted to look forward. The “I will’s,” “I promise to’s” and “I want to’s” loom large and new year’s resolutions or fantasies of who we’ll be in 2024 end up taking over the real estate in our brains. This is a dance that really never ends. We look back and wonder how things could be different. We look forward and promise things will be different.

I’m reminded, however, of the Christmas story we celebrated at the end of 2023. There is very little past or future gazing in that story. In fact, there is a now-ness to Christ’s birth that is inescapable. Luke, the Gospel writer who tells the most popular version of the Christmas story, makes sure we know Jesus was born at a specific time: during the reign of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and Herod was the puppet-king of Israel. He makes sure we know Jesus was born in a specific place: Bethlehem, the city of David, in a manger, at night. Non-Christians oftentimes wonder how Christians date the birth, life, and resurrection of Jesus. This is how. Biblical authors regularly reference extra-biblical leaders, historical circumstances, and goings-on of the first century that can be corroborated by non-biblical sources, thereby allowing us to accurately date the time and place of many moments in Jesus’ life.

But with Jesus, we’re talking about Incarnation. And with Incarnation, this should be expected.

God incarnate means God came at one real moment, at one real time in history, to a world teeming with real struggles. A world run by dictators and puppet-kings. A world where homeless refugees wander in search of rest. A world that doesn’t know what it should be or what it could be or even what it could have been. A world that only exists in what is. Incarnation shows up in what IS, never in what should be, could be, or could have been.

It’s amazing, then, how often we try to dislocate the incarnate presence of Jesus…how often we try to un-incarnate Jesus. We hope Jesus will show up in the future when we’ve got all our “stuff” in order. We think Jesus showed up in the past, during that one week when everything fell into place. That’s not incarnation though, is it? That’s either nostalgia or fantasy, and incarnation doesn’t show up in nostalgia or fantasy. Remember what Luke said, “In the days of Caesar Augustus, while Quirinius was governor of Syria, in Bethlehem, the town of David… a Savior was born.” Incarnation shows up NOW. How could it be any other way? The world of future fantasy doesn’t exist. The world of past regret or nostalgia either never existed like we thought it did or has passed away. Incarnation can’t and won’t occupy illusion. Jesus takes up space here and now.

As we enter the new year, are you tempted to look for Christ in what could be, should be, or could have been? If so, I’m afraid you won’t find Him there. He has no interest in meeting your “could be’s,” “should be’s” or “could have been’s.” But He’s very interested in meeting you NOW. Jesus doesn’t love illusion, He loves you. That’s the gift of Incarnation. God has come to YOU. NOW.

We’ll all do a little past and future gazing as the new year blossoms into being. That’s normal & expected, but let’s take a moment to acknowledge that we won’t find God by looking backward or forward. He’s already here, right now, fleshing Himself out in this moment, next to you holding a newspaper. That’s Incarnation. God is with you NOW.