Inhabiting the Unceasing

Good liturgy, whether formal or informal, ought never to be simply a corporate emoting session, however “Christian,” but a fresh and awed attempt to inhabit the great unceasing liturgy that is going on all the time in the heavenly realms.

—N.T. Wright, The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential, 6

New Year (2)

O Lord,
Length of days does not profit me
except the days are passed in Thy presence,
in Thy service, to Thy glory.
Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides,
sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from Thee,
but may rely on Thy Spirit
to supply every thought,
speak in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire
to show forth Thy praise;
testify Thy love,
advance Thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
with Thee, O Father as my harbour,
Thee, O Son, at my helm,
Thee O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.
Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to Thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.

Give me Thy grace to sanctify me,
Thy comforts to cheer,
Thy wisdom to teach,
Thy right hand to guide,
Thy counsel to instruct,
Thy law to judge,
Thy presence to stabilize.
May Thy fear be my awe,
Thy triumphs my joy.

Valley of Vision

New Year

I hope this New Year will bring many new blessings to you. The Lord is good. He has delivered (past)—He does deliver (present)—He will deliver (future). Oh, what an Altar, Atonement, Temple, Priest! What a Sun and Shield! What a Savior and what a Shepherd have we!

—John Newton, writing to a friend

The Word of Christ

The sermon is, by its audacious claim to be the word of God for the people at this time in this place, an implication of a miracle. The miracle is a faint but, by God’s grace, unmistakable “incarnation” of Jesus Christ. Fully divine, fully human, yet one God-with-us is the Christian confession of the nature of Christ. The sermon dares to make the same claim.

—Leanne Van Dyk, “Proclamation: Revelation, Christology,” A More Profound Alleluia, 72

Break Forth!

Break forth, O beauteous heav’nly light,
and usher in the morning;
O shepherds, shrink not with affright,
but hear the angel’s warning.
This Child, now weak in infancy,
our confidence and joy shall be;
the pow’r of Satan breaking,
our peace eternal making.

Break forth, O beauteous heav’nly light,
to herald our salvation;
He stoops to earth—the God of might,
our hope and expectation.
He comes in human flesh to dwell,
our God with us, Immanuel;
the night of darkness ending,
our fallen race befriending.

—Johann von Rist (1641), translated by John Troutbeck

A Collect for Christmas Day

Almighty God,
You’ve given us your only begotten Son
to take our nature upon Him,
and this day to be born of a pure virgin;
Grant that we, being made new by You,
and made children by adoption and grace,
may daily be renewed by the Holy Spirit,
through this very One: Jesus Christ,
our Lord and Savior,
who rules and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

—”A Collect for Christmas Day,” Book of Common Prayer (1549)

Paradox

Christ’s own being on the Cross contained all the clashing contrarieties and scandalous fates of human existence. Life Himself was identified with death; the Light of the world was enveloped in darkness. The feet of the Man who said “I am the Way” feared to tread upon it and prayed, “If it be possible, not that way.” The Water of Life was thirsty. The Bread of Life was hungry. The divine Lawgiver was Himself unjustly outlawed. The Holy One was identified with the unholy. The Lion of Judah was crucified as a lamb. The hands that made the world and raised the dead were fixed by nails until they were rigid in death. Men’s hope of heaven descended into hell. He was deprived of all His rights, to be with us in our privation.

—Frank Lake, Clinical Theology, 116

The Doctor Becomes the Patient!

In his book On the Incarnation, Athanasius asks what it means to speak of Christ as the Great Physician of our humanity. Christ does not heal us by standing over against us, diagnosing our sickness, prescribing medicine for us to take, and then going away, to leave us to get better by obeying his instructions—as an ordinary doctor might.  No, He becomes the patient! He assumes that very humanity which is in need of redemption, and by being anointed by the Spirit in our humanity, by a life of perfect obedience, by dying and rising again for us, our humanity is healed in Him. We are not just healed “through Christ” because of the work of Christ but “in and through Christ.”  47

—James B. Torrance, “Christ in Our Place,” A Passion for Christ, 47

God Became the Inventory

The owner has the right to throwaway the inventory, and God wouldn’t have lost an ounce of glory if the Great Flood had destroyed everyone, including Noah. But God in His grace became the inventory to purchase our lives with His blood. The Creator became the creation, and according to Revelation 13:8, in the mind of God Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross before the world was spinning on its axis. The veil of the Temple that once separated us from God’s presence has been torn in two, and both prostitute and peasant have access into the Holy of Holies.

—Christian George, “Younger Evangelicals and a Restlessness for Revival,” The Founders Journal 71 [Winter 2008], 16

Wondrous Mystery

Mirabile mysterium declaratur hodie, innovantur naturae:
Deus homo factus est, id, quod fuit, permansit,
et quod non 
era, assumpsit, non commixtionem passus neque divisionem.

(A wondrous mystery is proclaimed today; all natures are renewed:
God has become human: He remained what He was,
and what He was not He became, suffering neither confusion nor division.)

—Jacob Handl (1550-1591)

A Marvel of the Heart

Though in our sin we are rebels deserving only the censure and judgment of God, in our human state apart from sin, that human experience into which Jesus entered, we are the glory of the entire creation. We are made like Him, as like Him as any creature could be made; and we are made for Him, for fellowship with Him to all eternity. The real marvel of incarnation is not that God should become man, but that He should do so for us men and for our salvation. At the end of the day, it is not chiefly a marvel of the mind, but a marvel of the heart.

—Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Complete in Christ, p. 28

Amazing Condescension

Now our whole souls are filled with one thought—the condescension of God. Now we shall not be stumbled at passages which speak of the exceeding humiliation to which He stooped. As we assign no limit to the height of His glory, we shall assign none to the depths of His grace. Yea, so far from taking offense at the inferiority of the position which He assumed, the very lowliness of His incarnation and very degradation of the death He died, will kindle in us a brighter and more burning gratitude, when we remember that though rich it was for your sakes He became poor; and that for us, His wayward and wandering sheep, the chief Shepherd offered up Himself as the Lamb of God, laying down His life of His own accord, and taking it up again to die no more.

—Edward Henry Bickersteth, The Trinity (1892)

Incarnation

Article 18: The Incarnation

  • So then we confess that God fulfilled the promise which He had made to the early fathers by the mouth of His holy prophets when He sent His only and eternal Son into the world at the time set by Him. 
  • The Son took the “form of a servant” and was made in the “likeness of man,”^33 truly assuming a real human nature, with all its weaknesses, except for sin; being conceived in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, without male participation.
  • And He not only assumed human nature as far as the body is concerned but also a real human soul, in order that He might be a real human being. For since the soul had been lost as well as the body He had to assume them both to save them both together.
  • Therefore we confess, against the heresy of the Anabaptists who deny that Christ assumed human flesh from His mother, that He “shared the very flesh and blood of children”;^34 that He is “fruit of the loins of David” according to the flesh;^35 “born of the seed of David” according to the flesh;^36 “fruit of the womb of the virgin Mary”;^37 “born of a woman”;^38 “the seed of David”;^39 “a shoot from the root of Jesse”;^40 “the offspring of Judah,”^41 having descended from the Jews according to the flesh; “from the seed of Abraham”—for He “assumed Abraham’s seed” and was “made like His brothers except for sin.”^42

    In this way He is truly our Immanuel—that is: “God with us.”^43

    ^33 Phil. 2:7 ^34 Heb. 2:14 ^35 Acts 2:30 ^36 Rom. 1:3 ^37 Luke 1:42 ^38 Gal. 4:4 ^39 2 Tim. 2:8 ^40 Rom. 15:12 ^41 Heb. 7:14 ^42 Heb. 2:17; 4:15 ^43 Matt. 1:23

—from the Belgic Confession 1567, 1619)

The Divine Paradox

A God, and yet a man?
A maid, and yet a mother?
Wit wonders that wit can
Conceive this, or the other.

A God, and can He die?
a dead man, can He love?
What wit can well reply?
What reason reason give?

God, truth itself, doth teach it.
Man’s wit sinks too far under
By reason’s power to reach it.
Believe, and leave to wonder!

—author unknown, “The Divine Paradox” (16th century)