And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the Child to be born will be called holy -- the Son of God.
- Luke 1:30-35
Do you ever wonder about the Incarnation of the Son in Mary’s baby Boy? I admit, I do. It is mindboggling to me because it is utterly beyond my ability to comprehend. Oh, I don’t mean that I doubt the reality of the Incarnation. Rather, the Incarnation is so spectacularly divine, so far outside the realm of natural law, that I cannot begin to imagine…
What does it mean for God to enter into a woman’s womb? The Word reverberated into nothingness and called forth the whole of creation. The God Whose Spirit breathes the pulse of life, sustaining all that was, and is, and ever shall be… Nestled in the cells of the Virgin’s womb, multiplying, forming, becoming the Savior of the world… I am in awe. I cannot understand, but I do not doubt, at all, because He has saved me, as He has saved so many throughout history to this day. I know Him, now in part, but one day in full. Yet, even then, even seeing face to face, I think we will not understand, but only worship and adore in the first full realization of the extent of His love. Even His love, ever-present and constant, stretches infinitely further than our knowing and our experience now.
The earliest Christians wrestled with this mystery: God in the flesh. None offers a clear explanation because explaining an act of such magnitude is not possible. Thus, the Incarnation remains one of the two great mysteries of Christian faith that cannot be compromised or forfeited. God became Man in the Baby born to Mary. He was fully God and fully Man. The two co-mingled natures in Jesus Christ is the first unfathomable mystery we must accept if we wish to be truly Christian and to know and experience God.
The second impenetrable mystery of Christian life and faith is the Holy Trinity – three Persons in one God, the same in essence, united in Being, distinct by action. The Son was born of Mary. The Holy Spirit poured forth at Pentecost. But these are all one God – a Being we cannot reduce to our grasp, but the very Being we meet in our worship and our prayers – the One Who grasps us and brings us out of death into His life, even while we still struggle through this one.
For today, to ponder the Incarnation is enough for us. Let us sit in wonder and astonishment that God has done such a thing for us. The Son of God willingly chose to become human. The One Whose breath gave life to the man of dust confined Himself within a tiny, screaming Baby thrust into the shock of human life. When He opened His eyes the first time and peered at the world through His humanity, the Uncreated Light of His Kingdom gave way to the dingy light of a stable, motes of dust and animal dander floating in the air He breathed. As God, could He see both?
Our hymns and stories claim the Babe was silent, but human babies are not silent. They cry for food, for clean diapers, for wounds and comfort. The Son of God was present in the Baby, but Mary also was present in the Baby. The Scriptures do not imply that He never cried – nor do they suggest that He never gurgled or wiggled or stretched, as human babies do. Jesus was fully human. He ate; He slept; He hungered, and He thirsted. Eventually, He died. But not yet… Let us wonder at His birth, His humanity, the Son of God pushed from the womb to nurse at Mary’s breast.
Have you ever wondered if, while coming into Being in the womb, the Son knew was happening outside and all around? God would know. John the Baptist, though still unborn, leapt in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice. Elizabeth’s baby knew Mary’s Baby just days after He was conceived.
Did the Son of God look through the eyes of Mary’s baby Boy to see the heavenly host whose praise and joy flooded the Kingdom at His birth? Did He lie in the manger and see the same sight the shepherds saw out in the field? What limits did the eternal and immortal God and Author of all accept when He joined Himself to the finite, dying human form? As the host of heaven proclaimed, “Glory to God” and “peace on earth,” did the Son know the end that was coming, even in the Baby’s squirming, rooting hunger moments after His birth? God always knew the Incarnation would lead to the death of the Son. Before time existed, God knew His yet-unformed creatures would rebel, and the price of Creation would be the Crucifixion. The freedom of His Image to reject Him was instilled in our creation. The Father designed us to be like Him, from the endless well of His love and generosity in our formation. That is Who God is, and all that we have comes from Him. Even the worst we suffer does not mar the beauty and glory of the Creator’s gift of created life.
To attain the peace on earth that the heavenly host proclaimed would cost God mightily. We haven’t seen such peace yet. A people who do not believe in God cannot begin to grasp the rich meaning and joy of His goodwill toward us. Our God is relentlessly determined to reclaim His creation and restore His Image in humanity. So, as the Baby blinked and yawned, how could Mary’s Child not know the presence of the Most High in Himself? God was co-mingled in His very essence and in His fragile, newborn Body.
The Child of peace has not yet triumphed in full, so war and hatred, greed and lust, the full panoply of human rebellion continue, aided and abetted by the one who seeks to destroy. The pretensions of nations ever push to dominate, and if we are not careful, worry and fear erode the peace of the Christ Child within us.
The world was just as bad then as it is now. Our mistake was in thinking our world today is better than theirs. It is not. There is nothing new in the human race, nothing new – for all our advanced tools – in the ideas of mankind, nothing new since Pentecost in God’s own actions and interactions with human beings and the creation in which we live. History unfolds as we wait for the God-Man to restore the whole to its former glory, when He sets these captives – you and me – free from all the binds and strangles the gift of life we have been given.
In that tiny Child born so long ago in the dusty stable surrounded by animals, God became human for us. The heavens resounded with joy as the angels glorified God for what He had begun when the Baby Jesus took His first breath. The songs of praise and thanksgiving, the promise of peace and goodwill, continue to echo across the Kingdom, for what was begun will one day be seen fully by us, in us, across the whole of human history, and throughout the creation broken in our sin and death. One day, death will be no more. There will be no sorrow or mourning or crying, for the Baby in the manger has reclaimed the whole of His creation for Himself.
Until that day, look to the manger. Salvation has begun.
“O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, to Bethlehem, come and behold Him,
born the King of angels…
True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal,
lo, He shuns not the Virgin’s womb;
Son of the Father, begotten not created…
Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning,
Jesus to thee be all glory given.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing…
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”
When you sing this year, I pray your eyes of your soul will be opened and your heart will move toward that Baby until you see the face of God, the fulfillment of every human hope, the victor over every human fear. Come in awe, for God has come to you.
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau