In this season we contemplate the Wonder that leaves us awestruck.
On a silent night in Bethlehem of Judea an indescribable wonder occurred. It is too huge to comprehend. Human language stammers to give witness to the event. Our minds are addled and our tongues are tied, so God positioned a special star in the sky and despatched a choir of angels to announce with supernatural emphasis the marvel of what was happening. Heaven itself heralded the advent on earth of heaven’s Prince and Darling - the Lord Jesus Christ - God’s Son and our Saviour.
John the apostle, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, reaches out to pluck words sent from heaven to speak of the exceptional birth that we celebrate. God himself opens the lips of the beloved disciple to express the mystery - the mystery of the Incarnation which tells us that with God all things are possible (it is the seal of this truth) and that all things recorded in Scripture concerning Jesus from nativity to ascension are credible.
The One ordained to be the expression of God’s self and the embodiment of his power and love is aptly identified as the Word - God’s speech, God displayed in human form to the world of humanity. The reality is breathtaking. John tells us of the glory of the Eternal Word in the timeless beginning - the majestic, sovereign, almighty Son of God, and in the brief prologue of his gospel moves on to the unimaginable self-abasement of the Word made flesh, and God made man - not merely to stupify us but to salvage us from ruin.
John’s thought concerning Jesus is unsurpassably exalted.
The Word, the Son, hails from forever, before the cosmos was created and the ages began to be counted. He commenced all that ever was and now is. He never “clocked in” - for he proceeded eternally from the Everlasting Father, and preceded any notion of chronology.
Throughout immeasurable eternity past he was beside the Father - the Word was with God, equal in deity and excellence, and the delight of angelic hosts when he deigned to give them being at some point unknown to us. The Word was God enthroned in dominion with the Father and the Spirit as the agent of God’s creative word, the craftsman of the universe, the shaper of the spheres, the source of living spirits. John establishes the inestimable dignity of the Son, the supreme loftiness of his person, his status at the acme of all that exists. This is the Lord Jesus before whom we bow so willingly, and soon shall all creation bow before him when its predetermined duration is spent. We cannot help but adore.
But John soon transitions to another amazing theme. The Word who sits enthroned on high stoops to the lowly level of a creature. The One whose finger directs the course of our planet through space like a minute speck of dust afloat reduces himself down to the size of a Visitor who can jump on board and dwell among us in our flesh.
The Word became flesh. The infinite One compressed himself into our form - still vaster than everywhere - he wrapped himself in human nature and clothed himself with a body like ours.
The Incarnation is God’s identification with us in personal concern at our self-wrought predicament as rebels against his affectionate authority. When he came among us to sojourn with us we did not recognize his astounding humility and scorned his heartfelt love. We despised his merciful descent towards us and mocked his saving intent. We denied his glory and and sought to extinguish the light of his truth and hope that he desired to donate to us.
With our darkness we strove to engulf him in our gloom. The author of our life and world met with our stubborn refusal to recognize him. His own would not receive him with the hospitality due to our Benefactor, but with the hostility due to a malefactor. The Lord’s appointed Christ as our Redeemer was rejected and treated as a criminal. John’s glorious tale becomes a tragedy. But still grace persists and truth triumphs. The One and Only cannot or ever be defeated in his purpose.
Full of grace and truth the Saviour exercises these virtues to win souls to himself. As John comments “from the fulness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another” (v16), and principal among them is the precious personal knowledge of God conveyed to us through Jesus himself: No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at his Father’s side, has made him known” (v18).
Christ through his restorative action for us and within us has brought us to the Father’s side also, fulfilling the prediction of ancient Isaiah, “He will see his offspring, (his seed, his descendants)” (53:10), for, “By his knowledge (expertise and saving skill) my righteous servant will justify many and he will bear their iniquities” (53:11). Christ will create and gather many children into the family of God (53:12-13). The Incarnation leads to the Atonement, and the Atonement leads to the new birth (regeneration) and adoption (chosen sons and daughters), and the process is a seamless work of pure grace, and that makes the life of the believer a perpetual Christmas of wonder and joy (see the Collect for Christmas Day). Hence we extol the Lord in celebration:
You are the king of glory, Lord Christ.
You are the everlasting Son of the Father.
When you became man to set us free, you humbled
yourself to be born of a Virgin.
When you had overcome the sting of death, you
opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
You sit at the right hand of God, in the glory of the
We believe you will come again to be our Judge.
Come then, Lord, we pray, and help your servants,
whom you have redeemed with your precious blood.
Bring us to be united with your saints, in everlasting
- Te Deum