The Outspoken Confession of the Faithful
One interesting thing about the Incarnation is the practice of public confession — not of sin but of belief. As Paul wrote, "Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, 'I believed, and so I spoke,' we also believe, and so we also speak" (2 Cor. 4:13). I'd like to particularly apply this idea to our current season of Advent. Only by faith can we understand the Incarnation. That Christ comes to us while we are faithless is the beauty of Advent. But God does not send His Son without also providing faith. And by that faith, we see the infant baby for what He is — Emmanuel or "God with us."
So what does faith in the Incarnation look like? And how can the church manifestly enjoy their belief during Advent? I believe this is best done through weekly confession of a historical creed. This should be the habit of the church throughout the year, but it is especially true as we set our hearts on the coming of Christ in human flesh. I would like to take a look at Luke 1 as faith in the incarnation is represented by the outspoken confession of the faithful.
The father of John the Baptist, Zachariah, is the first on the docket. He starts the book of Luke engaging an angel. In response to the angel's message Zachariah doubts. He is portrayed as unfaithful. He is either unwilling or unable to believe the truth of what the angel speaks. For him, requesting a sign is taken as a condemning action (Luke 1:18-20). The result is muteness for Zachariah. Without faith, it is impossible to speak. Without faith, it is impossible to confess. This is precisely Paul's point in 1 Corinthians 12:3. Thus, Zachariah would be speechless until the naming of his son. The act of naming his son loosed his tongue and immediately he is found praising God (Luke 1:62-64). But this is not a private praising. This leads to his public (this point is sometimes missed) prophecy about the deliverance that would come through the Messiah (Luke 1:67-79). Faith led to a public confession.
Next comes Elizabeth. She is willing and open to say of the Virgin Mary many things that Protestants are not (Luke 1:42-45). This confession of faith is not without a spark. Elizabeth has also experienced her own miraculous conception. This little baby also responds "publicly" when he encounters in the Incarnate Christ. Baby John "leaps" and the Holy Spirit fills Elizabeth (Luke 1:41). It is now that Elizabeth confesses. And she confesses both her faith and Mary's faith that "there would be a fulfillment" (Luke 1:45). These things are essential to the weekly confession — "conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary." Through her and her seed the Messiah is identified and praised.
Then there is Mary. She is presented as one who believes. Not only by an angel but also through Elizabeth. Her question is not about the truth of God's promise, it is about the means (Luke 1:34). She recognizes the impossibility of God's promise. Man cannot accomplish this (Luke 18:27). So Mary seeks to know how God will accomplish it. The angel answers, and we are led to believe that Mary never doubts. Her hymn of praise to God is one that exemplifies Jewish understanding of the Messiah but also a Christian understanding of their savior (Luke 1:46-55). Her faith is exalted in Scripture. She is given a song like the Old Testament saints. Her song is a confession of faith in light of the incarnation.
In the midst of these three is the person of John the Baptist. He is the promised proclaimer of the incarnation. He is the pinnacle of confession. He jumps in the womb and through him, the baptism of Jesus occurs. John declares that Christ is the "lamb of God" (John 1:29). There is no higher confession.
It is true that Advent does not rely upon men. That God comes towards us, apart from us, is the essence of Advent. And yet, confession occurs. It is the natural result. In the midst of the Incarnation, people must confess. This is the result of a unique and personal encounter with the logos. That Christ is the God become man means He is the God who meets man. And in this meeting man can do nothing but confess (Php. 2:10-11).