Ascended as God and Man

Against our attempts to make the resurrection a ghost party, like a wisp of fog on hot tea, Jesus appears among us with “real wounds,” shows us that resurrection is a matter of flesh and bones, of broiled fish and honeycomb.

His wounded body, a body that yet eats, a body of flesh and bones—flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone—now ascends into what it means to be God in eternity, forever taking with his embodied self all the good and hard memories of what it means to be human.

As the human who exists beyond the touch of death, whose scarred and resurrected body is our death’s antidote, as the everlasting human who remembers all our faces, the ascending Jesus keeps his promise to raise us with him—a promise he makes as the first born of a new creation and as God.

And it it this wounded God with human memories whose rule of resurrection overcomes death, whose rule of forgiveness overcomes sin, whose rule of welcome overcomes estrangement.

—Father Kenneth Tanner, https://www.facebook.com/kenneth.tanner

Wondrous Exchange

This is the wondrous exchange made by His boundless goodness.

Having become one with us as the Son of Man, He has made us with Himself sons of God.
By His own descent to the earth He has prepared our ascent to heaven.
Having received our mortality, He has bestowed on us His immortality.
Having taken our weakness upon Himself, He has made us strong in His strength.
Having submitted to our poverty, He has transferred to us His riches.
Having taken upon Himself the burden of our unrighteousness with which we are oppressed, He has clothed us with His righteousness.

—Thomas F. Torrance, “The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper,” in Conflict and Agreement in the Church, 145

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.

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

The Maker Become Man

Man as ‘image of God’ might be called to grow into the moral and spiritual likeness of his Maker: but that the ikonic relationship should, as it were, operate in reverse, and that the Maker should become man and should even go to death for the love of man—that astonishing thing evoked rapturous praise from believers.

—Geoffrey Wainwright, Doxology: The Praise of God in Worship, Doctrine, and Life, 206

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, 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

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! (15)

The very possibility of the incarnation of the Son of God itself rests on our possession of the image. It is because man fundamentally reflects the personal character of God that God himself can take on flesh and blood. We can make sense of incarnation only in the light of what we know already about the constitution of man as the highest of all the creatures of God, whom God has made for fellowship with himself. The high dignity which this confers upon human existence is radically underscored by the union of divine and human natures in Jesus Christ. God commits himself to us forever by clothing his own Son with human nature.

—Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Complete in Christ, 27