Volume 11, No. 11 (November 2016)
As we enter this season of Advent and Christmas, I decided I could do not better than to offer these meditations on the Incarnation from figures down through the centuries.
I hope your spirits will be refreshed anew as you meditate on these words. A number of them are quite suitable for use as readings, responsive readings and prayers in Christ services; or also to be printed in bulletins or posted on websites or social media.
He took to himself what He was not, while remaining what He was;
He came to us in a man without ever departing from the Father (in heaven);
He continued to be what He is while appearing to us as what we are;
His divine power was confined in the body of an infant
without (His presence) being withdrawn from the (entire) universe.
—Augustine, from a sermon in 396
O inexpressible mystery and unheard paradox: the Invisible is seen, the Intangible is touched, the eternal Word becomes accessible to our speech, the Timeless steps into time, the Son of God becomes the Son of Man!
—Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-c.395)
In the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension, Christ brings humanity into the very triune life of God. Just think about it: the Father, the Son and the Spirit are all existing in perfect communion, but the Son has united human nature in His person so that humanity is now joined in Christ to the very inner life of God.
—Robin Parry, Worshiping Trinity, 65-66
The glory of the incarnation is that the physicality of Jesus—His human nature—is the very means by which God is known. In other words, the humanity of Jesus was not an obstacle to God’s revelation that we somehow need to look past to find God. On the contrary, the humanity of Jesus, His tangible, physical, material presence, was and is the way by which God is known through Jesus. The incarnation is the ultimate declaration of what is proclaimed repeatedly in Genesis 1: God saw what He had made, and it was good.
—Gordon T. Smith, A Holy Meal: The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church, 27
God has wholly and unconditionally committed himself to us in the Incarnation of his dear Son in Jesus Christ, so that all that He eternally is and will be as God Almighty is pledged in Jesus Christ for us in our salvation.
—Thomas F. Torrance, “The Christ Who Loves Us” in A Passion for Christ, 18
The prime purpose of the incarnation, in the love of God, is to lift us up into a life of communion, of participation in the very triune life of God.
—James B. Torrance, Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace, 32
God doesn’t need the incarnation any more than He needs the world. He would be the same infinitely joyful, infinitely lively and infinitely satisfied God if we had never existed and if Jesus had never been born.
God doesn’t need the incarnation, but the incarnation is not alien to God. God is boundlessly good, with a goodness that is infinite love. He is a ring of self-giving love from Father to Spirit to Son to Spirit to Father. Philanthropy—love for humans—comes naturally to the Triune God, the fitting expression of the goodness God is. His Triune goodness is displayed in His willingness to become flesh and “mingle” with us (Gregory of Nyssa).
Our good is to mingle with Him. He has become one Spirit with us; our good is to be one Spirit with Him. He has united Himself with our flesh; our good is to be one body with Him.
—Peter J. Leithart, blog post on John 1:14
The very possibility of the incarnation of the Son of God itself rests on our possession of the image. It is because man fundamentally reflects the personal character of God that God Himself can take on flesh and blood. We can make sense of incarnation only in the light of what we know already about the constitution of man as the highest of all the creatures of God, whom God has made for fellowship with Himself. The high dignity which this confers upon human existence is radically underscored by the union of divine and human natures in Jesus Christ. God commits himself to us forever by clothing His own Son with human nature.
—Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Complete in Christ, 27
Leader: Let us now proclaim our faith with the saints of the ages,
All: We profess that God fulfilled the promise
that He had made to the early fathers
by the mouth of His holy prophets
when He sent His only and eternal Son into the world
at the time set by Him.
The Son took the “form of a servant”
and was made in the “likeness of man,”
truly assuming a real human nature,
with all its weaknesses, except for sin;
being conceived in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary
by the power of the Holy Spirit,
without male participation.
And He not only assumed human nature
as far as the body is concerned
but also a real human soul,
in order that He might be a real human being.
For since the soul had been lost as well as the body,
He had to assume them both to save them both together.
In this way He is truly our Immanuel—
that is: “God with us.”
—Belgic Confession (1561), Article 18
Man’s Maker was made man
that the Bread might be hungry,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired from the journey,
that Strength might be weak,
that Life might die.
God in disguise . . . and the thrill of the Divinity lay in the completeness and perfection of the disguise. A certain Everlasting Essence, when He chose to become Man, chose with superb irony to become the humblest of men.
He it is by whom all things were made,
And who was made One of all things.
Who is the Revealer of the Father,
The Creator of the mother.
The Son of God by the Father without a mother,
The Son of man by the mother without a father;
The Word who is God before all time,
The Word made flesh at a fitting time;
Ordering all the ages from the bosom of the Father,
Hallowing a day of today from the womb of the mother;
Remaining in the Father,
Coming forth from the mother;
Author of the heaven and the earth;
Sprung under the heaven out of the earth;
In his wisdom a babe without utterance;
Filling the world,
Lying in a Manger.
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.