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When did God save the world? In answer, one might make a valid argument for the Cross or the Resurrection. But what about the Incarnation? More than any other event, it is the Incarnation that puts the person of Christ front and center, because its emphasis is not on what Christ did but on who he is.

If the Incarnation has been overlooked, perhaps it is because of the temptation to assess the events of Jesus' humanity—his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension—only as building on one another in some unlocking, chronological way. This is natural to do because of the temporal, historical nature of Jesus' earthly life. Unfortunately, the result of such an approach is that it can relegate God's mind-blowing assumption of our humanity to something like a means to an end—the end being the crescendo of Easter.

But because of the always-divine nature of the eternal Son, these gospel events also carry a trans-temporal element that gives each its own salvific potency—each event is contained in the other, because all are lifted off the earthly timeline and gathered up in him. To say it another way, whereas in chronological time the events of salvation historyrely on each other, in the eternal economy the events reveal with each other the reality that is Christ.

The event of the birth of Christ, then, contains all the others. Bundled in the manger is the salvation of the world. The Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension are all present implicitly in the baby Jesus, only to be unpacked over the next thirty-plus years. Far from being secondary, the Incarnation is in a very real sense our saving moment! At Christmas we can thank the Lord with Simeon: "For my eyes have seen your salvation" (Luke 2:30).We say this ...

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December 2011

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