This is the time when we all start to think about what we wish we hadn’t eaten over the holidays and other ways we’d like to improve ourselves. Two currents of thought run through our minds. One stream bubbles with excitement over a new challenge. But discouragement flows in the other one, because try as we might, bad habits are hard to kick. Swimming in the discouraging stream leads to self-loathing and negative self-talk. The result? We remain stuck.
God doesn’t want us to be stuck in self-destructive habits. He has not only laid out a plan for healthy human flourishing, He’s given us what we need to live accordingly. In 2 Peter 1:4, Saint Peter writes that because of Jesus, we have “become partakers of the divine nature.” This is the opposite of being stuck with an unaided, flawed human nature. The study notes in my Bible explain that becoming partakers of the divine nature is “a strong expression to describe the transformation of human nature by divine grace.” But how does this happen? And does the Incarnation have anything to do with the transformation we are longing for?
To answer that question, I turned to Saint Athanasius and his little book, On the Incarnation. In it, he asks if it had to be God the Son who became incarnate. Could it not just as well have been God the Father? He then answers his own question, saying that it had to be God the Son, and the reason for that is found in John 1:1–3: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made.”
Jesus, the Word of the Father, the Word of God, made the world—everything and everyone in it. Man was given a nature full of grace, immortality, and a paradise to live in. But we know the story. Man threw away this birthright of beauty, and death and corruption entered the world.
The result was that things became worse and worse. Man’s sin surpassed all limits. It went from bad to worse. This is the truth of what human nature is like without God, as opposed to a utopian view of the world that thinks that if we can just get the right laws, the right political party in power, the right systems, then everything is going to be good again. We are always looking for something to fix this problem of man’s capacity for evil, our insatiable appetite for devising new kinds of sins, but we want the solution to be anything but God. We see this clearly during this current cultural moment. But it’s nothing new. This has always been the case.
The solution is not to be found in human systems, institutions, politics, or policies. God has always known that we don’t hold the solution in ourselves. And in His goodness, He wasn’t content to sit back and watch us flounder. Athanasius writes, “Man, who was made in God’s image…was disappearing, and the work of God was being undone.” God wasn’t going to let His creation and His children be ruined.
What would God choose to do? We find the answer in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”
God decided that the Word who had brought creation into being was to come into that very creation, take on a human body, and re-create it all. The One who made it would restore and renew it. Not from a distance, but from within.
In some sense, the Word of God has never been far from His creation, because He fills all things that are—as we see in Ephesians 1:23, “the fullness of him fills all in all.” This has always been the case. But with the Incarnation, “He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us.”
He looked at the tremendous amount of suffering we endure.
He looked at His daughters, so desiring to change what was sinful in them, but falling into the same bad habits time and time again.
He looked at our dashed dreams.
He looked at the death of our loved ones.
He looked at the tension and disappointment between spouses who had committed to love each other forever.
He looked at the exhaustion of his people who are just trying so very hard and feel they will never be able to keep up.
He looked at the way disease attacks the bodies of His beloved and wreaks destruction.
He looked at children making self-destructive choices as their parents helplessly looked on.
God decided that He wasn’t going to just toss us some platitudes or good advice in the face of heartache and the corruption of the good. He was going to step down and come into the very midst of that mess and heartache. He became incarnate so that “neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).
The message—the miracle—of the Incarnation, is that the Word of God has not only come to earth, He has come inside of you. He is with you in your suffering. You are never alone. But that’s not all. He has made you a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). He is in you, just waiting for you to invite Him to recreate you, to renew you, to transform you so that you become just like Him.
Where are you placing your hope at the start of 2022? Are you counting on the gym membership, new organizational principles, or sheer grit to bring desired change? May this be the year when the reality sinks in that the hope of glory is Christ in you. “The secret is simply this: Christ in you! Yes, Christ in you bringing with him the hope of all glorious things to come.”
With you on the journey,
 Commentary on 2 Peter 1:4 from The Great Adventure Catholic Bible (Ascension Press).
 Saint Athanasius, On The Incarnation, 17.
 Athanasius, 19.
 Athanasius, 21.
 Colossians 1:27, J.B. Phillips Translation