Christmas should be a time of awe and reverence. Our salvation, our blessing, our life and our hope were made possible because God took on human flesh in a manger in Bethlehem.
by the late Fuchsia Pickett
The shepherds saw a babe in a manger. The wise men, arriving later, also saw a young child. But the One who emerged from Mary's womb that cold winter night in Bethlehem of Judea was much more than what was discernable with human eyes.
He was God. The sacred record is clear: "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
"Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.'
"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!'" (Luke 2:8-14).
It is as much a marvel today as it was 2,000 years ago: God the Father so approved of the One born that night in Bethlehem that He bid the angels to worship together—even though the second person of the Trinity wore a menial garb of swaddling clothes and had been laid on a bed of hay!
A Lasting Wonder
We can only approach the high and holy subject of Christ's incarnation with awe. His name is called "Wonderful" (Is. 9:6). The angels of God are commanded to worship Him (Heb. 1:6). The one born in Bethlehem's manger is Immanuel, "God with us" (Matt. 1:23), and the "Mighty God" (Is. 9:6).
In Jesus Christ, God was born, lived here in this world, died, rose again and ascended to heaven as the God-man, becoming the object of lasting wonder to all creation.
He is entirely unique. His birth has no precedent, and His existence has no analogy. Placing Him in a category cannot explain Him, neither will an example adequately illustrate Him.
The Scriptures reveal His person, yet they never present an exhaustive definition of Him. We are told, "Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16).
Moses' experience in the wilderness—when the angel appeared to him in the burning bush—is an Old Testament type of the presence of God indwelling the man, Christ Jesus. The Exodus account clearly speaks of the flame of fire being "in the midst" of the bush without consuming the bush itself (Ex. 3:2). This is seen by some as a foreshadowing of the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in Christ.
Yet the wonder of an unconsumed bush burning with fire does not ultimately compare to the mystery of Jesus, as a man, being indwelt by the fullness of God. How is it possible that this one person could be infinite and finite, mortal and immortal, omnipotent and vulnerable?
It transcends all human understanding that two wills, two natures and two memories can constitute one person who is God in the flesh. We cannot explain how both natures, in all their attributes and acts, can grow together and unite in one whole being, acting in concert in one person. Yet God declares that it is so!
Christ, in becoming man, did not cease to be God. He did not lose His position or His divine attributes. Rather, He voluntarily set them aside to take on our humanity.
Yet the humanity of Christ was not destroyed or consumed by His deity; its own human characteristics were preserved. As Luke says, "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52).
In the Incarnation, God in Christ Jesus established a personal union between Himself and a human spirit, soul and body. Theologian A.A. Hodge declares the union between these two natures is not mechanical, as it is between oxygen and nitrogen in our air; nor is it chemical, as it is between oxygen and hydrogen when water is formed; nor is it organic, as it is between our hearts and brains.
Rather, it is a union more intimate, more profound and more mysterious than any of these. It is personal. And, as Hodge points out, if we cannot understand the nature of the simpler unions, why should we complain because we cannot understand the nature of the most profound of all unions? read more