Every year when we return to the celebration of history’s greatest event, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ amazes, stuns, thrills, challenges and encourages me! The idea of God Himself becoming a human being and the expanding implications of it was a topic I could speak to year after year in my Advent sermons.
This past week I asked myself, “What are the applications of the Incarnation directly to parenting?” Let’s explore this together…
In Matthew 1:18-25, God comforts Joseph who is struggling with what appears to be Mary’s unfaithfulness. We are all familiar with this comfort from the angel of the Lord: “do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” The passage goes on to say, ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel‘ (which means “God with us”).” That simple phrase blows my mind. The God who sometimes seems so distant is in fact near; He is WITH us!
Our nearness to our children, our presence can be a powerful tonic for our children. Moms often must be present due to day-to-day interactions. Dads, however, might need to be more intentional to be with our children. Our calm presence at times of stress can often diffuse anxiety and fears.
A huge passage on the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus is found in Philippians 2:1-11. In the first four verses, God is encouraging the believers to be selfless and to focus on valuing others above ourselves. To back up this exhortation, God turns to the Incarnation: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” and God then lists the steps of Christ’s voluntary humiliation:
1. He did not count equality with God something He should cling to. He did not cling to His position of ultimate power.
2. He emptied Himself.
3. He took the form of a servant
4. He humbled Himself further by becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross.
How do we apply these things to our parental role?
1. Though we have been given a position of authority over our children, we do not Lord it over them.
2. We die to ourselves daily.
3. We become a servant to our children, and not in the sense that we are always picking up after them, but in the way we lead them. (See below.)
4. We die for our children as well.
The good news is seen in God’s response to the Lord’s humiliation — God the Father exalted God the Son and gave Him the name above any other name and restored Jesus to His rightful place of worship. While we are not exalted to that status, Jesus promises that those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Luke 14:11) God values our humility.
Serving Our Children: What was it like for you when your children were first born, when they were still small enough that they did not have ideas of their own? For many of us, we visualize what our sons or daughters would become. He will be a great football player. She will become a great pianist. They will make great achievements in a certain profession. We can just picture it.
Then our child informs us that he/she has a very different picture of the preferred future.
How do you adjust? Both Hope and Abby came up with alternate visions of their future. Their ideas were fine. They just weren’t Dad’s ideas. (Or Mom’s either.) I had a choice. I could fight their plans. I could find all of the reasons why these were impractical, immature, short sighted… You get the point. Rather, I chose to become their servant. I did research on the chosen alternatives. We visited schools offering the programs that they were interested in. We met with the appropriate advisers to see if these options were feasible financially.
At the end of the day, Hope switched gears back to her original plan of teaching and a great Christian college and Abby pursued her alternative but at a less pricey school. But through the process, I learned to lower myself similarly to what Christ had done for us when He became human. I learned to become their servant in following where they thought God was leading them. And my bond with my daughters remained strong and we did not get locked into a power battle over the issue.
There are more implications of the incarnation for our parenting that I will share next week. In the meantime, be intentional to be “present” with your children in the midst of the hectic activities of the season. Remember humility. We lead as servants, not as lords.
God’s best, Christopher