This Advent we will prepare our hearts for Christmas with a sermon series on The Incarnation. The heart of Christmas pulses with the belief that Jesus Christ, the Son of God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The profound doctrine of the incarnation explores why it was necessary for our salvation that God became a man.
We will be accompanied in this series by an elder brother in Christ, the pastor-theologian Athanasius, who served the church in North Africa for forty-five years during the early 4th century AD. His devotional treatise On the Incarnation is considered one of the great works in Christian theology. C.S. Lewis considered this work “a masterpiece.”
Athanasius begins his work with an invitation to the reader: “Come now, blessed one and true lover of Christ, let us, with the faith of our religion, relate also the things concerning the Incarnation of the Word and expound his divine manifestation to us” (On the Incarnation, 1). The topic of the incarnation promises to have a good effect on the lives of believers: “so that you may have an even greater and fuller piety towards him (1). He also asks not-yet-believers to listen well “for the more he is mocked by unbelievers by so much he provides a greater witness of his divinity” (1). Learning about the incarnation just might deepen our love for Christ and stimulate further evidence for all to see that Jesus truly is the Son of God.
We often feel intimidated by such a read. That’s why we need the preface to the modern English edition, written by Lewis himself, in which he reminds us:
“There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books.
The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator.
Firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.” (11)
Lewis wisely recommends: “it is a good rule, after reading a new book, never allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones” (12).
We need the old books because without them our vision is limited. We are restricted by the particular perspective, pressing concerns, and common assumptions of our own time and place. Lewis insightfully reminds:
“Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. … The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds.” (13)
I look forward to this clean breeze clearing my own mind this Advent. I anticipate more love for Christ and more confidence in him as a result. Such would surely be worth the time and effort.
Learn more about the sermon series here.