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The Beauty of the Incarnation

Categories Theology

Nativity_rgb_web As we reflect on the Incarnation during this Advent season we can easily fall into focusing exclusively on one of two realities, realities that the Church has wrestled to hold in tension from its earliest history.

On the one hand, we can look at the manger and see a baby who isn’t really a baby at all but God merely appearing as a baby, leading us to sing “the little Lord Jesus no crying he makes” and similar verses.

On the other hand we can see a baby who is simply another baby, another child born into a hurting world who may provide a cute picture in the manger, and later bring a message of love, but ultimately in no different than the rest of us mortals.

Neither of these alone do justice to the Biblical witness, but how do we hold them together? Turning to Gregg Allison’s Historical Theology we read,

Early Christian writers continually affirmed that Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man, and that the incarnation did not diminish the deity of the Son of God nor make him a superman. Melito of Sardis described the mystery this way.

‘... He was carried about in the womb of Mary, yet was clothed in the nature of the Father. He walked on earth, yet filled heaven. He appeared as an infant, yet did not discard his eternal nature. He was invested with a body, but it did not limit his divinity. He esteemed the poor, yet he was not divested of his riches...He was nailed to a tree, yet he was the Lord of all things.’

Speaking of God pushes the limits of our language, as it should. But the effort is worth it, because the true beauty of the Incarnation is only found when both these truths are seen at once.

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