Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
There are a number of churches that follow the Christian Year. Although many Evangelical churches do not follow this in their structure and planning, they do follow a couple of them. Most remember the birth (Christmas, some will precede this with Advent) and death-burial-resurrection of Jesus Christ (Good Friday and Easter).
One of the disciplines I began years ago was to read a book annually on the theme that we were remembering/celebrating as a church. In this way rather than remaining at the same place I was when I completed seminary, I would grow and expand my understanding of that particular doctrine. The desire has not just been to grow in my understanding of the doctrine, but to experience the ultimate goal of doctrine/theology which is worship of our great God. This is the putting together of theology and doxology. All theology is foundation to doxology; all doxology is grounded in theology. The incarnation is foundational to the Christian faith and the ground of our worship.
This year’s reading on the incarnation is Graham Cole’s The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation. This book is part of the excellent series, New Studies in Biblical Theology, edited by D. A. Carson. Of this book Carson writes, (pp. 9-10),
Books on the incarnation tend to deploy, early on in the discussion, the categories of systematic theology. The biblical proof texts that are adduced are mostly from the New Testament; much less effort has been poured onto tracing incarnation theology right through the canon. Although considerable effort in biblical theology has been devoted to such messianic themes as the Davidic monarch, the priesthood and the temple, relatively little has been devoted to the incarnation. This book by Dr. Graham Cole takes steps to fill the need. Undoubtedly more can be said, but it is immensely satisfying to find an able systematician wrestling with biblical texts – as it is to find biblical scholars tracing the lines from exegesis towards biblical and systematic theology – not least on a topic as central to Christian faith as this one. As I write these words, the world approaches the Christmas season, and around the globe, in their own languages, Christians will sing,
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; Hail th’ incarnate Deity!Pleased as man with men to dwell – Jesus our Emmanuel.Cole’s intent/purpose for the reader is that this work might lead to stupendous wonder of the nature, purpose and ways of God with the ultimate goal that it might lead to deeper and more reflective and joyful worship of our great God (p. 25).
My hope is that by the time the reader closes this study he or she will have a deeper sense of the astonishing providence of God that subtly prepared the way for the mystery of the incarnation, a greater appreciation of the magnitude of the divine stooping that in the incarnation saw God weep human tears, and a profounder joy at the depth of the love of God that sent no surrogate as the final revelation but the beloved Son who became flesh.
If you do not have a discipline like this, I encourage you to begin. No matter how long you have been in ministry, it is not too late to begin.
If you have done something like this, what is the book you will be reading on some aspect of the incarnation this year?