During the Christmas season, I can’t stop thinking about how Jesus chose to come as a baby. He chose to dwell within a woman’s body. Why a pregnancy? Could the incarnation have come about in another way—like God simply speaking himself into existence as a man? I understand, and rejoice in, a prophecy fulfilled (Isaiah 7) and accept that a pregnancy was the way divinity fuses with the humanity of a real, sinful person. Jesus had to experience everything we do—including living in a womb—to sympathize with us in every weakness (Hebrews 4:15). But I still sometimes wonder about this pregnancy.
During a recent advent sermon, my pastor said something astonishing that I hadn’t thought about before. He mentioned that the incarnation of Christ into human form as a baby inside of Mary (literally as a body) was a foreshadowing of the way in which Jesus Christ would dwell within our beings (figuratively, by the Holy Spirit) and bring about new birth. The New Testament speaks so often of Christ bringing about a new birth (John 3:3-8; Galatians 4:29; 1 Peter 1:3; 1 Peter 1:23; 1 John 1:29; 1 John 3:9; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 5:1-18) and this happening in our inner being. Paul even talks about spiritual formation and his “pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in [us]” (Galatians 4:19). I had always considered the miracle of the virgin conception, but I never considered the teaching moment that, even in his arrival within a womb, Jesus showed us how to think best about how He truly dwells within us and we become born again into new creations. He formed himself within Mary, and He forms himself within us by the Holy Spirit.
I can’t seem to escape that God wants me to live more and more from my inner being—where He dwells and where I have been born again. For the past year, I’ve been studying the unlimited privileges of Christ’s presence in our souls. The journey of inquiry began with Psalm 97:10 and the simple statement that “God guards the souls of His faithful ones.” I considered the guarding presence of God in my soul and the miracle of this indwelling God who, like Paul prays in Ephesians 3:16, can strengthen us with power by His spirit in our inner being. The resulting book, Guarded by Christ: Knowing the God Who Rescues and Keeps Us, synthesized all I discovered in scripture concerning God’s guarding work within my soul. I began to live more from my inner being with the Spirit than from the external circumstances and emotions.
And, at Christmastime, I remember that this was how it was from the very beginning: an indwelling Christ and a new birth. These miracles of Christmas make my heart erupt in worship as I consider how, even in the manner of His arrival, Jesus was preparing the way for us to understand something vital about Him.