God with skin on

There’s a much-used sermon illustration about a little boy who was frightened by a storm one night. Several times he cried out in fear and his mother would come to his room for comfort and to remind him that God was always with him. As she prepared to leave the third time her son grabbed her arm, held tight, and said, “I know Mummy, but I want God with skin-on!”

Each year at Christmas we sing ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’, which includes the lines: ‘Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity’ – expressing a profound fact about Jesus’ nature. Although the word incarnate is not found in the Bible, the truth it contains is – God became man! This astonishing revelation is at the heart of the Christmas message and is expressed on many occasions in the New Testament. Take Philippians as an example: ‘(Christ Jesus) though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.’ Philippians 2:6-7 (ESV)

Why did Jesus who was fully God have to become fully man? There are many overlapping layers to answering that question, but at least in part it was so that we could see God. Jesus said ‘whoever has seen me has seen the Father’ John 14:9 (ESV). Like the little boy in the story, we don’t simply want to know the truth about God being with us, we want to experience him; we want God with skin on. Jesus was exactly that – God with skin on! The more we get to know Jesus, the more we get to know God.

There are times however when, like the little boy in the story, we need a hug or a shoulder to cry on, and in that moment another human being communicates the presence of God in a way that goes further than mere statements of truth. In those moments the followers of Jesus also ‘incarnate’ God and show the Father to people. Words are important, but words are not enough. How can you help people ‘see the Father’? How can you also be God with skin on?

This blog post featured in the December 2012 edition of Lifelines

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