Assumed and Healed

St. Gregory of Nazianzus is known for his saying “that which He has not assumed, He has not healed.”  The converse is true, of course—what God the Son has “assumed” or taken upon himself in His Incarnation, all of that which is truly human, is healed, and so transformed. This includes our worship.

—Edith Humphrey, Grand Entrance: Worship on Earth as in Heaven, 68

When Eternity Played by the Calendar

Almighty and Eternal God,
infinite and holy,
whose being genius cannot fathom,
whose works galaxies cannot contain.

Before You we gratefully come, celebrating the day
when You, the Almighty, did not count omnipotence a thing to be grasped,
when Eternity played by the calendar,
when Infinity was checked by gravity,
when Holiness mixed it up with sinners,
when the Creator of intergalactic space
became a body
and moved into our neighborhood.

Today we revel in the revelation
that we who were light-years distant
have been drawn to You as breath in lungs,
that we who had lost touch
can now feel the wounds in Your hands and feet,
brushing up against the holy body that bore the sins of the world,
and the cold flesh that, soon enough, turned warm and whole,
and soon enough, made all things new.

We, like the shepherds in the field,
like the women at the tomb,
are astonished,
trembling in wonder
and in fear.

If all this is true,
if a love like this
is the blood that courses through all reality,
behold, all things are new.

On our better days, Lord, we long to be transformed
by the wonder.
But most days, we are scared to death to be changed,
even by love.

Yet it is not to the bold that you have come,
Only to the trembling
And not to the wise,
But only to the foolish.

Give us ears to hear the glad tidings of great joy,
and lungs to sing with exuberant praise,
and legs to dance spritely around the strawy trough
that cradled the Love
who redeems the cosmos.

Amen.

—Mark Galli, http://www.christianitytoday.com/behemoth/2014/issue-12/when-eternity-played-by-calendar.html

 

Come and Stand Amazed

Come and stand amazed, you people, see how God is reconciled!
See His plans of love accomplished, see His gift, this newborn child.

See the Mighty, weak and tender, see the Word who now is mute.
See the Sovereign without splendor, see the Fullness destitute;
the Beloved, whom we covet, in a state of low repute.

See how humankind received Him; see Him wrapped in swaddling bands,
Who as Lord of all creation rules the wind by His commands.

See him lying in a manger without sign of reasoning;
Word of God to flesh surrendered, He is wisdom’s crown, our King.
See how tender our Defender at whose birth the angels sing.

O Lord Jesus, God incarnate, who assumed this humble form,
Counsel me and let my wishes to Your perfect will conform.

Light of life, dispel my darkness, let Your frailty strengthen me;
Let Your meekness give me boldness, let Your burden set me free;
Let Your sadness give me gladness, let Your death be life for me. Amen.

—Calvin Seerveld (Worship Sourcebook 469)

Made like Us

To be human is to be made in the image of God, and there is nothing higher to which we can aspire. For to be made in the image of God is to be made as much like God as someone who is not God could ever be. This amazing dignity, which attaches to human nature wherever it is found, is finally proved to us in Jesus Christ, since in the incarnation God took to Himself the mode of existence which is also ours.  And having once taken it to Himself, He has not laid it down. Then and today and for all eternity, human existence is dignified by the astonishing fact that the God who created it has made it His own.

—Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Complete in Christ, 113

One Way

The Son of God did not want to be seen and found in heaven. Therefore He descended from heaven into this lowliness, came to us in our flesh, laid Himself into the womb of His mother and into the manger and went to the cross. This ladder He placed on the earth so that we might ascend to God on it. This the way you must take.

—Martin Luther

Glory Be to God on High

Glory be to God on high,
And peace on earth descend;
Now God comes down, He bows the sky,
And shows Himself our friend!
God the invisible appears,
God the blest, the great I AM,
He sojourns in this vale of tears,
And Jesus is His name.

Him by the angels all adored,
Their maker and their king;
Lo, tidings of their humbled Lord
They now to mortals bring;
Emptied of His majesty,
Of His dazzling glories shorn,
Our being’s Source begins to be,
And God Himself is born!

See the eternal Son of God
A mortal Son of Man,
Now dwelling in an earthly clod
Whom Heaven cannot contain!
Stand amazed, ye heavens, look at this!
See the Lord of earth and skies
Low humbled to the dust He is,
And in a manger lies!

We the sons of men rejoice
The Prince of Peace proclaim,
With Heaven’s host lift up your voice,
And shout Immanuel’s name;
Knees and hearts to Him we bow;
Of our flesh, and of our bone,
Jesus is our brother now,
And God is all our own!

—Charles Wesley

Worship and the Incarnation

The fundamental issue of worship style is that worship must be participatory. Worship is a synergism of divine and human activity; it is dialogic. Worship that is a monologue, either of God or of the people, fails to meet the criteria of the divine-human relationship modeled by God’s Incarnation and the church’s theological reflection. 

—Robert E. Webber, “Blended Worship,” from Exploring the Worship Spectrum, 185.

Incarnation and Trinity

The revelation of the incarnation and the Trinity, though hinted at for long ages, was not, in every sense, a gradual unveiling. No sooner is the lock of the incarnation undone, than the lock on the treasure chest of the Trinity springs open. Granted, it took several centuries for all that treasure to be unpacked, to be taken into inventory, so to speak, but the doctrine of the Trinity was not dreamed in a vision, not framed as an utter novelty in the ecumenical creeds.  Indeed, the truth about the triune God is implicit in the knowing confession that Jesus is Lord (as we think about his relation to us and the world) and in our careful contemplation concerning his self-revealed and proper identity as Son to the Father, with the Holy Spirit.

—Edith M. Humphrey, “The Gift of the Father: Looking at Salvation History Upside Down,” in Trinitarian Theology for the Church: Scripture, Community, Worship, 91-92

Made like Us

What poor Adam could not see was that he already was as like God as ever a creature could be. And though in his vain search to rise above his God-appointed station he succeeded only in bringing down the human race into sin, he could not destroy God’s purposes. In incarnation and in atonement his folly has been undone, and God has taken human form in order to lead man back to himself. Adam’s folly lay in believing he could ever rise higher than his human station. There is no higher station open to any creature.

—Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Complete in Christ, 110-11

Advent

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, does various unessential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas 

The Great Exchange

Christmas is the season of the great exchange. Greeting cards are exchanged, as are social invitations and visits. Gifts are exchanged around the Christmas tree on December 25—and at store counters on December 26. But none of that begins to approximate what is meant here by “the great exchange.” For in the depths of its meaning, Christmas is about the exchange of divinity and humanity, of eternity and temporality, of life and death.

The season’s familiarity and its immense popular appeal obscure the fact that Christmas is a mystery comparable to that of the Pasch and fully dependent on faith in the Paschal victory. The wonder of Christmas is not, as might be supposed, “How can a virgin bear a child?” The virginal conception of Jesus is not in itself the mystery but is rather one way of pointing to the mystery, of indicating that what occurred at Bethlehem is outside the bounds of both human experience and explanation. The marvel is that the creator of the cosmos comes as creature for the purpose of setting right all that has gone wrong on this tiny planet. The wonder is that the Eternal One who can be neither created nor destroyed willingly becomes subject to both birth and death.

—Laurence Hill Stookey,  Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 105

O Come, Let Us Adore Him! (2)

1 O du fröhliche, o du selige,
gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit!
Welt ging verloren, Christ ist geboren:
Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!

O du fröhliche, o du selige,
gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit!
Christ ist erschienen, uns zu versühnen:
Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!

1 O thou joyful,
O thou wonderful,
grace-revealing Christmastide!
Jesus came to win us
from all sin within us;
glorify the holy child!

2 O thou joyful,
O thou wonderful,
love-revealing Christmastide!
Loud hosannas singing,
and all praises bringing,
may Thy love with us abide!

1 ¡Oh santísimo,
felicísimo,
Gratio tiemp de Navidad!
A este mundo herido,
Cristo le ha nacido:
¡Alegría, alegría, cristiandad!

2 ¡Oh santísimo,
felicísimo,
Gratio tiemp de Navidad!
Coros celestiales
Oyen los mortales:
¡Alegría, alegría, cristiandad!

—Johannes Daniel Falk, Heinrich Holzschuher

Acts 3:1-10, in the spirit of the season!

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

The following whimsical musical version was prepared with classmates for an assignment by Professor Howard Hendricks in his Bible Study Methods class at Dallas Theological Seminary in December 1977: we were to fashion a creative retelling of Acts 3:1-10, and since it was the Christmas season, carols seemed to be an appropriate vehicle!

(sing to tune of “It Came upon a Midnight Clear”)
It came about in Jerusalem,
At the ninth hour of the day,
That John and Peter, our heroes,
Went to the temple to pray.
A beggar, lame from his mother’s womb
They met along the way;
This man would daily sit by the gate
To beg for what he may.

(sing to tune of “The First Noel”)
He look-ed up and asked them for alms,
With the old classic gesture, the open palms.
But that preachers are all poor, we need hardly to tell;
An experienced beggar, you’d think he’d know well,
Know well,
Know well,
Know well,
Know well,
An experienced beggar, you’d think he’d know well.

(And Peter said:)

(sing to tune of “Away in a Manger”)
“I’m living on faith and I ain’t got* no bread;    [*fisherman jargon]
The apostle business is still in the red;
And taking an off’ring’s not yet invented.
But how ‘bout a miracle maybe instead?”

(to tune of “Joy to the World”)
“All praise to God, I now can walk!
Just see them stand and gawk!
I’ll walk and leap and praise His name,
And all will see and shout His fame.
I used to sit and wait
Down by the temple gate—
For signs and wonders how does that rate?”

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! (17)

Here are two mysteries for the price of one
     the plurality of persons within the unity of God,
     and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus.
It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas,
that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation tie.

“The Word became flesh,” John 1:14; God became man; the divine Son became a Jew;
the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and talked to like any other child.

And there was no illusion or deception in this:
the babyhood of the son of God was reality.
The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation.

—J. I. Packer, Knowing God, 58

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! (16)

There is no Gospel at all if Christ be not God.
It is no news to me to tell me that a great prophet is born.
There have been great prophets before;
but the world has never been redeemed from evil
by mere testimony to the truth, and it never will be.
But tell me that God is born,
that God Himself has espoused our nature,
and taken it into union with Himself,
that God Himself has espoused our nature,
and taken it into union with Himself,
then the bells of my heart ring merry peals,
for now may I come to God, since God has come to me.

—Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Christ’s Incarnation