What Child is This?

The incarnation has to be one of the most profound mysteries which we confess. There comes a moment in your Christian faith where you begin to reflect on the significance of the incarnation and you eventually realize you are in way over your head. Thankfully the Church historic has been reflecting on this subject for millennia and we can glean from their musings with great benefit. Besides if the response to the announcement of the birth of Jesus was a response of confusion, wonder, and bewilderment, I would say our responses that are the same in kind are very appropriate. Why should we feel out of place for not comprehending fully such a weighty matter when those visited by angels struggled as well?

When the angel announces to the shepherds about the birth of Jesus, they refer to him as “Christ the Lord.”

Luke 2:11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

The designation “Lord” signified that the Logos, was God Himself. “Lord” is the translation of the Greek word kyrios. In the Old Testament, the word “Lord” is sometimes seen in all capital letters “LORD” to communicate to readers the Hebrew word Yahweh, the covenant name of God. The New Testament writers were stating that Yahweh was in the flesh. The second person of the Trinity, the Logos, became flesh and dwelt among us.

The incarnation was the climactic event of God dwelling with his people. Through the Old Testament God would visit humanity in temporary forms, angels, burning bushes, etc. However, in the incarnation God would take upon himself true humanity forever. This is an essential point of the incarnation. Jesus “had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so he might become a merciful and faithful high priest…to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Heb 2:17-18)

It is indeed a mystery. As Calvin put it

Here is something marvelous: the Son of God descended from heaven in such a way that, without leaving heaven, he willed to be borne in the virgin’s womb, to go about the earth, and to hang upon the cross; yet he continuously filled the world even as he had done from the beginning!” (Institutes 2.13.4)

Christmas is the time of the year when we reflect on God’s greatest gift. The Word made flesh, dwelt among us, who was born to live for us and die for us, so that he might redeem us glorifying God. The church father Gregory of Nazianzus wrote, “For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved.” In that context he is speaking about the necessity of Jesus’ humanity. But the lesson is noted that the incarnation was God’s delivering work for his people. “The lesson of the incarnation is that only the Triune God could save us from ourselves.” (Oliphint, Majesty of Mystery, 76)