Thursday, December 24, 2009


God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man (C.S. Lewis)

The mystery of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding (Martin Luther)

Infinite, and yet an infant. Eternal, and yet born of a woman. Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman’s breast. Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother’s arms. King of angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph. Heir of all things, and yet the carpenter’s despised son. (Spurgeon)

Isaiah 7:14 (Amplified Bible)
14Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold, the young woman who is unmarried and a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel [God with us]

John 1:14 (New International Version)
14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,[a] who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Thoughts? Comments? I am more and more awed and impressed by the miracle and significance of the incarnation of God in Christ. Merry Christmas to all!


John M. said...
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John M. said...

Thanks Joseph. I love these scriptures. Here are my thoughts:

The Incarnation changed everything forever. It is the greatest miracle of all time. Jesus' death, burial and resurrection would be impossible without Mary's womb and the bethlehem stable.

The Incarnation itself was redemptive. By coming in human flesh Jesus, the Logos, the divine Word, the one by whom nothing was made that has been made, sanctified and added inestimable value to all humans. Every second, every minute, every hour of his life on earth was redemptive.

After his death, providing forgiveness of sins for all, and his resurrection providing victory and hope for all mankind, THIS SAME JESUS ascended into heaven. This is the greatest miracle and mystery of all to me.

There was a time when Jesus had not assumed flesh, but the Incarnation changed everything forever. He assumed flesh, and he has not shed flesh. He was not a ghost after the resurrection. He still possessed a body that could be touched and examined. His resurrected body still carried the scars of his passion. He ate with his disciples. He was the resurrected Word made flesh that the disciples "handled" with their own hands.

THE MAN, Christ Jesus The Lord, sits on the throne of the universe and THIS SAME JESUS will come again...

So, the Incarnation had a beginning; the eternal Word "became flesh". But the incarnation does not end. The one who put on flesh has not divested himself of flesh. There is a MAN seated on the throne of the universe.

How does his eternal humanity affect his relationship to His Father and his eternal place as the second person of the Trinity? Just like the Incarnation itself, our minds cannot begin to fathom God's eternal purpose in the ascended Christ.

The eternal fellowship, unity and relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit continues without change, since God does not change. And yet from our vantage- point the Incarnation changed everything because in the divine wisdom and mystery there is now humanity in the mix. The divine dance, the synergy of total oneness, intimacy, and fellowship of Trinity, includes the MAN Christ Jesus.

Those who long for a father...those who long for a bond and intimacy with other humans...those whose humanity is broken...those who desire intimacy with God...those who yearn for the Bread of Heaven, all have not only future hope but present possibility of finding fulfillment because their brother Jesus is there -- a perfect human, the second Adam, in perfect harmony and unity with His Father. His Spirit lives in us, and invites us into the fellowship.

He became man, so that we could become fully human. Amen.

Thoughts... responses?

Merry Christmas everyone! As I write this, I'm watching the mid-night mass from St. Peter's in Rome. Rich.

steve H said...

Great thoughts and Scriptures. Can't meditated on incarnation enough.

I was away unexpectedly for a week to be with a friend and his family while he was dying. Thus, I've not written much and can't now.



just joe said...

I recently read "PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM" by Robert Farar Capon at Brian's suggestion (the author, not the book). It was the most encouraging book I have read in years, and it lifted my appreciation for a) the incarnation; b) the atonement and c) the kingdom of God to new heights.

PS: I changed the youtube vido from Enya's Celtic version of Silent Night to Michael Card and Steve Green's "IMMANUEL"
It is good as we near the final phase of our lives to have our faith in the work of Christ and the unstoppable advance of the KoG rather than in our own efforts and ministries.

I can truly say that I feel richly blessed and full of joy this Christmas day despirte all of the pain and suffering that surrounds us. I probably am experiencing more joy in Christ this year than I ever have before.

John M. said...

Awesome Joseph, Merry Christmas!

Billy Long said...

Just wanted to say "hello" and Merry Christmas to you all.

Ed said...

This is so good. Of course, the Incarnation is the greatest story in history. These quotes catch certain rays of that story.

I just read a 98-page sledgehammer on this very subject: "A Not-So-Silent Night" by Verlyn Verbruegge (???).

It is about the dark and dirty side of Christmas. This wonderful book takes a crow bar to the Christmas myth and insists on realism. Highly recommended.

steve H said...

The blessings I've received from the Eastern Orthodox are to a great degree in the areas of their emphasis on the resurrection (from the perspective the western churches tends to emphasize the crucifixion more than the resurrection) and their emphasis on the incarnation.

The fact that the Creator became physically united with his creation has huge implications not only for man, but for the whole universe. The creation is good -- matter is not evil. Dualism is a heresy against reality.

The fact that God became man opens the door for man in Christ to become "deified" (EO terminiology based on Greek word) -- that is, to be partakers of the divine nature. What God is by nature we can become by grace. Not only are we created in his image, but in Christ we are being restored to his likeness.

We cannot become God in his essence but we can be joined to his energies. Some of the Fathers used the analogy of fire and sword. When you put a sword into the fire it does not become fire (essence) but in a relationship with the fire it takes on the properties of fire (heat and light).

david said...

steve, i was reading online yesterday and came across an EO hymn that is sung on Christmas eve - the imagery was great.

Today He Who holds the whole creation in His hand is born of a Virgin.
He Whose essence none can touch is bound in swaddling-clothes as a
mortal man.
God, Who in the beginning fashioned the heavens, lies in a manger.
He who rained manna on His people in the wilderness is fed on milk from
His mother’s breast.
The Bridegroom of the Church summons the wise men;
the Son of the Virgin accepts their gifts.
We worship Your birth, O Christ.
Show us also Your Holy Theophany!

just joe said...

good comments Ed, Steve and David. Steve, I agree that the incarnation has huge philosophical implications.

The Catholic student movement I am studying for my dissertation often used the concept of "incarnation" as a central principle in their social activism -- they conciously sought to incarnate the KoG and values of social justice in the university environment and in Brazilian society through their academic and professional involvement and ethics.

steve H said...

Love that hymn, David!

just joe said...

Ed: can you give us a thumbnail of the book, "A Not-So-Silent Night"? What is the main theme?

just joe said...

I found this review on Amazon:

In his new book, A Not-So-Silent Night: The Unheard Story of Christmas and Why It Matters (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2009), Verlyn D. Verbrugge reminds us that the true significance of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is found in His crucifixion outside the gates of Jerusalem some thirty-three years later and his resurrection some three days after that. What Dr. Verbrugge wants us to remember and think about during this festive season is the war between Jesus Christ and Satan that began that night in Bethlehem and raged until that glorious moment thirty-three years later when the stone was rolled away from the tomb and the crucified and dead Jesus was raised from the dead by the Father. Satan did all he could to prevent that event. Jesus had to literally fight His way to the Cross. Those intervening years witnessed the greatest struggle in history. Everything, truly everything, hung in the balance.

In a brief hundred pages, only eleven short chapters, Dr. Verbrugge recounts this epic drama, "the greatest story ever told." The humble circumstances of Jesus' birth, His rejection by those whom He came to save, the humiliation suffered by Mary, His mother, and the courage of His adoptive, earthly father Joseph are all highlighted. Verbrugge reminds us that Mary was not an ignorant participant in this struggle. Her song in Luke 1, known to us as the Magnificat, is "primarily a song of conflict and war--and of God's power to vindicate those who are trodden down . . . [it] is about the mighty warrior God, whose sovereign plan of history will always emerge victorious."

Ed said...

What I pulled from "A Not-So-Silent Christmas" was taking a screwdriver to the lid of the myth, popping it off, and revisiting the real story.

For example, Mary's parents probably kicked her out of their house and lives when she ended up pregnant. Joseph moved her into his house. And, that is probably why she went to see Elizabeth. Why else would a pregnant teenager walk 85 miles?

And, he even asserts that is why Mary traveled to the census. She did not need to register (she was not employed, married, or male), but she simply had no place to stay. So, Joseph took her -- at full term -- 100 miles by foot or donkey.

He also demolishing the idea that the local "Holiday INN" was just full. He says that "Inn" probably referred to a guest room in a relative's house. And, the scandal probably locked all doors against them and drove them out to the barn (a filthy place).

The book contains other fine "reality bites" of the story. It is just excellent.

John M. said...

A thought on the Amazon review of "A Not So Silent Night" that Joseph posted. The reviewer says, “Verlyn D. Verbrugger reminds us that the true significance of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is found in His crucifixion outside the gates of Jerusalem some thirty-three years later and his resurrection some three days after that.”

The reviewer may have misrepresented the book's emphasis, but my comment is not directed to the book, but rather to Evangelical Christianity's tendency to see only the cross and one's personal salvation no matter what lense they gaze into.

It would be foolhardy to diminish the importance of the cross. But If we meditate on the Incarnation with integrity, I believe that we will conclude that Jesus' entire earth-life from conception to death was redemptive and profoundly significant to God's big story and to human history.

Are the previous 33 years just a superfulous rehearsal for the real event, or a necessary and indespensible part of the entire story? Would the cross have the same value and meaning without the other events of Jesus' life?

Would the Resurrection have the same significance without the ascension? I propose that some serious reflection on the Ascension and it's current and future signifcance would prove very profitible and could be revolutionary.

Brian Emmet said...

Church tradition actually offers some good resources to escape the sentimentalizing of "the Christmas story." The so-called "twelve days of Christmas" are crowded with feast days, and an interesting and thought-provoking collection of feasts it is: December 26, the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr (why did they put that here?); Dec 27, the Feast of St, John the Evangelist, reminding us that the Incarnation is good news that we are called to incarnate in our own lives; Dec 28, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, slaughtered by Herod; Jan 1, the Feast of Mary the Mother of God; January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, ccelebrating Christ's baptism, the beginning of "his ministry" and the manifestation of the Trinity at that baptism. These can provide some powerful scouring powders to clean off our understanding of what's really going on here!

david said...

brian, i understand in the early church that Theophany in january was a greater feast than was the Nativity in december (i think for all of the reasons that you cited). the EO church although primarily Christocentric, they have a very developed Trinitarian theology.