156 – How the Incarnation Can Rejuvenate Your Writing

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Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young How the Incarnation Can Rejuvenate Your Writing Write from the Deep podcastThe incarnation. The wonder of God, in human form, dwelling with us. These are more than just words. They are a profound reality filled with mystery and sacrifice and wonder. But do we really embrace this reality? Join us as we savor and explore this deep wonder—a miracle that has the power to refill our creative well and nurture our weary spirit.

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

During this time of year, many Christians celebrate Advent. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus and literally means “coming.” Or we can think of it as “arrival.”

One of the definitions that Merriam-Webster lists is “the coming of Christ at the Incarnation.”

We hope you’ll take some time for rest and reflection this Christmas season. To stop for even just the duration of this podcast, if nothing else, to rejoice and focus on the miracle of the incarnation. The miracle of God with us. We hope it will refresh your perspective on how our amazing God is and why he breathed life and creativity into us, and why we write.

The Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen, came to earth as a tiny, helpless baby to restore the relationship we broke, to make a way for us to have peace with God. Listen in as we share Scriptures and quotes for you to immerse yourself in.

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. [Jesus]  is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Colossians 1:13-20 (ESV)

I love the focus of that passage, because it twice tells us that Jesus is fully God. And always was fully God. It’s important not to confuse the incarnation as being the point where Jesus came into existence. That isn’t the case—he was always in existence. Joseph Scheumann stresses this in his article “Five Truths about the Incarnation.” He writes:

“The virgin conception and birth in Bethlehem does not mark the beginning of the Son of God. Rather, it marks the eternal Son entering physically into our world and becoming one of us.”

REFLECTING ON THE INCARNATION HELPS US EMRACE THE MYSTERY

Scheumann also wants us to remember that the incarnation is still a mystery in many ways:

“Answering how it could be that one person could be both fully God and fully man is not a question that the Scriptures focus on.”

Scheumann also quotes Deuteronomy, where Moses writes:

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29 (ESV)

The apostle Peter also speaks of this mystery:

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” 1 Peter 1:8-12 (ESV)

Even though the “how” of the incarnation is still a mystery, consider the blessing we have—we’re on the other side of Jesus’ birth on Earth, just as those Peter was writing to were. While we don’t have Jesus in physical form walking among us, we KNOW the person and time of God’s coming to us, the time the prophets spoke about, the time the prophets could only imagine and wonder at. We have the accounts of what happened when God became flesh, and when he suffered, died, and rose again and established the Kingdom of God, the already-not-yet Kingdom. 

This is what many of us write about. This time we’re living in, when Jesus is active in Spirit in this world, doing his work of redemption in the lives of us who inhabit this weary physical world. But what a time of wonder made possible by these prophecies come to pass. These prophecies of God made flesh and of His Kingdom coming.

Reflecting on the incarnation helps us understand the sacrifice

The incarnation also makes us consider the staggering reality of what Jesus, in becoming human, had to give up.

“When the time came, [Jesus] set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.” Philippians 2:5-8 (MSG)

Here are more great quotes for reflecting on what the incarnation meant for Jesus. You can find these and more at thepastorsworkshop.com:

The ways Jesus goes about loving and saving the world are personal: nothing disembodied, nothing abstract, nothing impersonal. Incarnate, flesh and blood, relational, particular and local.” Eugene Peterson

“Jesus loved the will of His Father. He embraced the limitations, the necessities, the conditions, the very chains of His humanity as He walked and worked here on earth, fulfilling moment by moment His divine commission and the stern demands of His incarnation. Never was there a word or even a look of complaint.” Elizabeth Elliot

The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.” J.I. Packer

To achieve the divine purpose of becoming the Savior, the divine glory needed to be veiled. Christ voluntarily, moment by moment, submitted to human limitations apart from sin. The humiliation was temporary. The incarnation was everlasting.” John F. Walvoord — a Christian theologian, pastor, and president of Dallas Theological Seminary from 1952 to 1986.

“What self denial! What self abasement! What self emptying! He, whom no infinitudes can hold, is contained within infant’s age, and infant’s form. Can it be, that the great ‘I AM THAT I AM’ shrinks into our flesh?”  Henry Law, author and pastor of a church in England in the late 1800s.

“Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that Truth might be accused of false witnesses, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.” Augustine of Hippo

This is from a preface that C.S. Lewis wrote to the first part of a new translation of the New Testament by J.B. Phillips.

“The New Testament in the original Greek is not a work of literary art: it is not written in a solemn, ecclesiastical language, it is written in the sort of Greek which was spoken over the Eastern Mediterranean after Greek had become an international language and therefore lost its real beauty and subtlety. In it we see Greek used by people who have no real feeling for Greek words because Greek words are not the words they spoke when they were children. It is sort of ‘basic’ Greek; a language without roots in the soil, a utilitarian, commercial and administrative language. Does this shock us? It ought not to, except as the Incarnation itself ought to shock us. The same divine humility which decreed that God should become a baby at a peasant-woman’s breast, and later an arrested field-preacher in the hands of the Roman police, decreed also that He should be preached in a vulgar, prosaic and unliterary language. If you can stomach the one, you can stomach the other. The Incarnation is in that sense, an irreverent doctrine: Christianity, in that sense, an incurably irreverent religion. When we expect that it should have come before the world in all the beauty that we now feel in the Authorised Version we are as wide of the mark as the Jews were in expecting that the Messiah would come as a great earthly King. The real sanctity, the real beauty and sublimity of the New Testament (as of Christ’s life) are of a different sort: miles deeper or further in…” C.S. Lewis

Here’s a quote by J.B. Phillips, who wrote the Phillips version of the New Testament that C.S. Lewis was talking about:

“The modern intelligent mind, which has had its horizons widened in dozens of different ways, has got to be shocked afresh by the audacious central fact that as a sober matter of history, God become one of us.”  J.B. Phillips

The next two quotes (and more) for reflection can be found at wolfmueller.co:

“What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger…” St. John Chrysostom, Nativity Sermon

“The Bread of Heaven came down to earth to feed the hungry.” Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis 12

We’ve given lots of quotes about the sacrifice, the humiliation of the incarnation, and the wonder of it, but what about the motivation? Every good story, fiction or nonfiction, is driven by people with reasons for doing what they do. What is God’s motivation for the incarnation?

Reflecting on the incarnation helps us embrace god’s love

We often think of the next verse as a salvation verse, but it’s also an advent verse, because it tells WHY God became flesh and made his dwelling among us: because of God’s great love for us.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (ESV)

In his book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, W. Phillip Keller wrote:

Here we commemorate the greatest and deepest demonstration of true love the world has ever known. For God looked down upon sorrowing, struggling, sinning humanity and was moved with compassion for the contrary, sheep-like creatures He had made. In spite of the tremendous personal cost it would entail to Himself to deliver them from their dilemma He chose deliberately to descend and live amongst them that He might deliver them. This meant laying aside His splendor, His position, His prerogatives as the perfect and faultless One. He knew He would be exposed to terrible privation, to ridicule, to false accusations, to rumor, gossip and malicious charges that branded Him as a glutton, drunkard, friend of sinners and even an imposter. It entailed losing His reputation. It would involve physical suffering, mental anguish and spiritual agony. In short, His coming to earth as the Christ, as Jesus of Nazareth, was a straightforward case of utter self-sacrifice that culminated in the cross of Calvary. The laid-down life, the poured-out blood were the supreme symbols of total selflessness. This was love. This was God.  This was divinity in action, delivering men from their own utter selfishness, their own stupidity, their own suicidal instincts as lost sheep unable to help themselves.” W. Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (affiliate link)

Reflecting on the incarnation helps us embrace hope

The apostle Paul writes to Titus about God’s love, but also the hope that the incarnation brings us:

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7 (ESV)

These other quotes also help us embrace the hope we have in God:

“He who was born at Bethlehem is God, and ‘God with us.’ God—there lies the majesty; ‘God with us,’ there lies the mercy. God—therein is glory; ‘God with us,’ therein is grace. God alone might well strike us with terror; but ‘God with us’ inspires us with hope and confidence.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon, God with Us: Reflections on the Incarnation (affiliate link)

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah 57:15

Reflecting on the incarnation helps us embrace God’s rest

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus instructs us to come to him, a person who is God and yet a man. Jesus doesn’t tell us to come to a religion or a set of rules, but a person. God is relational, and in that relationship we find rest.  

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Paul talks about our freedom and rest in his letter to the Galatians:

“But then the chosen time came. God sent his Son. A woman gave birth to him. He was born under the authority of the law. He came to set free those who were under the authority of the law.” Galatians 4:4-5

Reflecting on the incarnation helps us embrace a holy life

Another thing we can see in those previous verses in Galatians is that even though Paul is talking about the law, meaning God’s Old Testament rules, the ten commandments and all that is commanded in the Torah to set apart the Israelites, this passage also reminds us that Jesus was born under the broken human institutions at the time: a brutal Roman government. They were dealing with bitter oppression. But what Jesus addressed was the spiritual condition of the people.

Yes, Jesus healed people, but those physical illnesses weren’t his main emphasis. The healings often were about showing his authority to address the spiritual issues. So at Christmas, even with all the upheaval of our world and the political problems, let’s make sure we take time to look at our spiritual condition as Christ did when God became man in our broken world. Are we living a holy life?

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:9-10 (NIV)

Reflecting on the incarnation helps us embrace wonder and joy

When we think about all the incarnation was and is, is it any wonder that when the angels came to bring the news to us on earth, a whole host of heavenly angels burst into song?

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’” Luke 2:8-14

So stop, right now. Imagine it. You’re settled back against a boulder, gazing over your flock of sheep, watchful. A light brighter than anything you’ve ever seen splits the darkness. Startled, you look up, and fall on your knees, for there, all around you, are angels singing the sweetest, most powerful Gloria in excelsis Deo. Glory to God in the highest! You jump up and run to Bethlehem. To a stable. And there, in the straw, amidst the livestock, you find the baby. As you stand awestruck at the tiny bundle of holiness, you hear, as we all do still today, the call that rings through our hearts and spirits:

Come to Bethlehem and see Him whose birth the angels sing;

Come, adore on bended knee, Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

How does the incarnation inspire you?

THE NOVEL MARKETING PODCAST

We’re grateful for a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing Podcast, with host Thomas Umstattd Jr. It’s the longest running book marketing podcast in the world. We know and trust Thomas, and his podcast is full of great information and advice—like Novel Marketing’s 10 Commandments of Book Marketing, which we’ve been bringing you.

This week we’re talking about Commandment #6: Thou Shalt Own Thine Own Platform.

You only need to look around at what’s happening in the world today, where a social media platform can cancel you in a heartbeat and you lose access to the readers you may have spent years growing. Or those platforms can make you pay, anytime they want, in order for your audience (that you worked so hard to cultivate!) to see your posts. And this has happened.

That makes growing your platform on those types of ground an unwise investment. Own your platform. The two most important things for you to own is your website and your newsletter list. This is what you should be spending time and money developing.

Your website is your home base. It’s a place readers can find you, a place you own, so it can never be taken away from you. And your newsletter is how you communicate directly with your readers. Again, those email addresses can never be taken away from you by some company that decides to cancel you.

For more book promotion and platform help listen to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com.

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Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

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