Worship as response to revelation in the canticles of the Christmas story in Luke 1–2:
REVELATION: Annunciation to Mary & visit to Elizabeth (1:26-45)
RESPONSE: Mary’s Magnificat (1:46-55)
REVELATION: Annunciation to Zacharias & birth of John the Baptist (1:5-25,57-66)
RESPONSE: Zacharias’ Benedictus (1:67-79)
REVELATION: Angel’s announcement of Christ’s birth (2:8-13)
RESPONSE: The Angels’ Gloria (2:14)
REVELATION: Promise and fulfillment to Simeon (2:35-37)
RESPONSE: Simeon’s Nunc dimittis (2:29-32) (“my eyes have seen”) RESP.
Jesus whom we worship was born into a specific culture of the world. In the mystery of the incarnation are the model and the mandate for the contextualization of Christian worship. God can be and is encountered in the local cultures of our world. A given culture’s values and patterns, insofar as they are consonant with the values of the Gospel, can be used to express the meaning and purpose of Christian worship. Contextualization is a necessary task for the Church’s mission in the world, so that the Gospel can be ever more deeply rooted in diverse local cultures.
—Constance Cherry, The Worship Architect, A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services, 293
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, 28
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 Troutbec
“And the Word became flesh. . . . [Jesus said] My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in Him.” John 1:14; 6:55-56)
The Eternal Son took on human nature, but more than that, took on flesh, dilapidated human nature, so that He could restore it. He entered fully into the world of sin and death so that He could bring life and righteousness. Light entered the darkness so that darkness could be turned to light.
And now Jesus tells us that this flesh that He took on has become food, food that gives life, food that binds Him to us and us to Him. The bread on this table is not another incarnation of Jesus. It would be a sin, and a grievous one, if we were to bow down and worship this bread in the way the wise men bowed down to worship the infant Jesus. But through this bread we do feed on Jesus, the living and life-giving Incarnate Son of God.
Jesus is the bread that came down from heaven: He who eats and drinks of Jesus has eternal life, and Jesus will raise you up on the last day.
—Peter Leithart (blogpost)
Herein is wisdom:
When I was undone, with no will to return to Him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.
—The Valley of Vision
See the eternal Son of God, immortal 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!
He deigns in flesh t’appear, widest extremes to join;
To bring our vileness near, and make us all divine:
And we the life of God shall know, for God is manifest below.
The Son of God, who created Adam for sonship, communion and immortality, does not abandon His loving purposes for humanity, but in order to redeem humanity Himself becomes man, that He might fulfill for us in His own person God’s purposes of love and obedience and worship.
—James B. Torrance, “Christ in Our Place” in A Passion for Christ, 47
In incarnation enfleshment the God who is spirit took to Himself man’s own bodily life. God thereby affirmed man’s bodily state by making it His own, and affirms it even today since, at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, stands Jesus Christ with His human nature intact in glory.
—Nigel Cameron, Complete in Christ, 75
I am suggesting, then, that the incarnational Christology of the New Testament had its roots not in philosophical speculation, and still less in the gratuitous imitation of supposedly similar ideas in other religions and cultures, but in Christian experience of Jesus, both in His earthly ministry and in His risen power, and that it was the natural translation of this experience into an attitude of worship which provided the seedbed for New Testament Christology. To fail to explore and account for this attitude of worship, as has much modern discussion of the origins of Christology, is to discard the real life situation of a warm and experience-centred devotion to Jesus in favour of a process of philosophical speculation which lacks an adequate starting-point in the life of the Christian church.
—R.T. France, “The Worship of Jesus: A Neglected Factor in Christological Debate?” in Christ the Lord: Studies in Christology Presented to Donald Guthrie, 33
[Jesus’ human life] began in an infinitely small place: as almost invisible, swiftly dividing cells in a young woman’s womb. In the dark, and the obscure.
—Jessica Snell, http://ccca.biola.edu/advent/2017/#day-dec-5
Yes, Christmas is a feast for children, not just because of the tree that we decorate and light, but in the much deeper sense that children alone are unsurprised that when God comes to us on earth, He comes as a child.
Leader: Let us now proclaim our faith with the saints of the ages:
All: We profess that God fulfilled the promise
that 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,”
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.
In this way He is truly our Immanuel—
that is: “God with us.”
—Belgic Confession (1561), Article 18
“For He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying,
‘I will tell of your name to My brethren;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.'” (Hebrews 2:11-12)
The writer uses some of the boldest incarnational language in the New Testament in order to define the identity of Jesus as the Son of the Father, but at the same time maintains a radical emphasis on His humanity. His reason for demonstrating the latter is to establish the right of Jesus to be the high priest or mediator of the New Covenant. The role of the priest was to act on behalf of the people in relation to the holy presence of God. In order to represent the people, the priest had to be both one of the people and chosen by God to fulfil this role. Jesus qualified on both grounds, as our brother (2.11) and as God’s Son (5.5).
—Christopher Cocksworth, “The Cross, Our Worship and Our Living,” Atonement Today, 116
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)
God doesn’t need the incarnation any more than He needs the world. He would be the same infinitely joyful, infinitely lively and infinitely satisfied God if we had never existed and if Jesus had never been born.
God doesn’t need the incarnation, but the incarnation is not alien to God. God is boundlessly good, with a goodness that is infinite love. He is a ring of self-giving love from Father to Spirit to Son to Spirit to Father. Philanthropy—love for humans—comes naturally to the Triune God, the fitting expression of the goodness God is.
His Triune goodness is displayed in His willingness to become flesh and “mingle” with us (Nyssa). . . . Our good is to mingle with Him.
—Peter Leithart (blog post)
The supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us, [lies] in the Christmas message of Incarnation.
The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man. . . determining human destiny, . . . and that He took humanity without loss of deity, so that Jesus of Nazareth was as truly and fully divine as He was human.
. . . . It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie.
‘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 taught to talk like any other child.
. . . . 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, 53
Come, Desire of Nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble Home,
Rise, the Woman’s Conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the Serpent’s Head.
Now display Thy saving Pow’r,
Ruin’d Nature now restore,
Now in Mystic Union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.
Hark how all the Welkin rings,
“Glory to the Kings of Kings”!
—Charles Wesley, “Hark! How All the Welkin Rings” (now “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”) (1739)
Man’s Maker was made man
that the Bread might be hungry,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired from the journey,
that Strength might be weak,
that Life might die.
If we are sinful and unclean, the remedy is not far to seek, because it is offered to us in our flesh.
—John Calvin (on Hebrews 2:11)