Years ago near Christmas I was listening to ATC when a woman commentator shared the challenge of being Jewish in America at Christmas. I wish I could remember her name. What she said was cordial and insightful. As she wrapped it up she conceded wistfully that Christmas had quite simply inspired the greatest music in the history of the world. That admission contained a sigh and a signal.
Even Richard Dawkins (who succeeded Bertrand Russell and Madalyn Murray O’Hair as the world’s most famous atheist) has admitted to being a “cultural Christian.” The foundation for so startling a confession.? He found the singing of English Christmas carols to be irresistible. There is a truth and power in music whose source is not yet fully comprehended. Music is the registry of an unarticulated native reality. The power of music offered in praise suggests that though God’s truth can be denied, the beauty which radiates from that truth cannot go unadmired. Music which praises God’s majesty reflects God’s majesty. The music of Christmas, like the message of Christmas, resonates with something deeper than the mere recognition of excellence.
—Ronnie Collier Stevens, blogpost 12/13/2008
O thou joyful,
O thou wonderful
Jesus came to win us
from all sin within us;
glorify the holy Child!
—”O Sanctissima,” German carol
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, 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
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)
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
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