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
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
God the invisible appears,
God the blest, the great I AM
Sojourns in this vale of tears,
And Jesus is His name.
Emptied of His majesty,
Of His dazzling glories shorn,
Being’s source begins to be,
And God’s own self is born.
—Charles Wesley, Nativity Hymns, #4
Though Creation may be a majestic organ of praise,
it cannot reach the compass of the golden canticle—Incarnation!
There is more grandeur in the song that heralds the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem than there is in the worlds on worlds rolling in silent grandeur around the throne of the Most High.
The birth of Jesus is the grandest light of history,
the sun in the heavens of all time.
It is the pole-star of human destiny,
the hinge of chronology.
the meeting-place of the waters of the past and the future.
—Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Christ’s Incarnation
In Christ’s incarnation, God’s omnipotence cometh down to man’s feebleness, and infinite majesty stoops to man s infirmity. So in Christ the infinite became an infant.
—Charles Haddon Spurgeon
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