The Ultimate Paradox

The Incarnation Changed Everything

A mass of legend and literature has repeated and rung the changes on that single paradox; that the hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle. Upon this paradox, we might almost say upon this jest, all the literature of our faith is founded. It is at least like a jest in this, that it is something which the scientific critic cannot see. He laboriously explains the difficulty which we have always defiantly and almost derisively exaggerated; and mildly condemns as improbable something that we have almost madly exalted as incredible; as something that would be much too good to be true, except that it is true.

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When that contrast between the cosmic creation and the little local infancy has been repeated, reiterated, underlined, emphasized, exulted in, sung, shouted, roared, not to say howled, in a hundred thousand hymns, carols, rhymes, rituals, pictures, poems, and popular sermons, it may be suggested that we hardly need a higher critic to draw our attention to something a little odd about it; especially one of the sort that seems to take a long time to see a joke, even his own joke.

– G. K. Chesterton

B.C. / A.D.

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No longer is God simply on high,
he is now down below.
No longer does God intimidate,
he now lies helpless in a manger.
No longer should we surmise that sin shuts down
God’s love, Bethlehem tells us otherwise.
No longer does death reign,
the Giver of life has appeared.
No longer must we remain “lost and ruined
by the Fall”, redemption has come.

B.C. / A.D.

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No longer is God simply God,
he is also man.
No longer should we ask what God is like,
he is present in our midst.
No longer must we inquire what love looks like,
he has come to dwell among us.
No longer does darkness rule unchecked;
the Light of the world has come.
No longer should we retreat in fear;
Bethlehem invites us to draw near.

B.C. / A.D.

Bethlehem changes all

No longer is God far off;
he has drawn near.
No longer is God invisible;
he has become tangible and observable.
No longer is God out of reach;
he has become approachable and touchable.
No longer should people attempt
to find God; God has found us.
No longer is deity separate from humanity;
they have become one.

When Heaven Stoops

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Welcome! all wonders in one sight!
Eternity shut in a span!
Summer in winter, day in night!
Heaven in earth, and God in man!
Great little One, whose all-embracing birth
Lifts earth to heaven, stoops Heaven to earth!

–Richard Crashaw
(1613-1649)

The Humanity of God

Giovanni copyWrinkled, Crinkled
Red-skinned Squirmer
Famished Squealer,
Manger Wetter.
Gabriel salutes you!
Michael bows!
We here in Bethlehem
Bed you with cows.
We here in Bethlehem
Bed you with cows.

–Stephen Mahan

Crazy Shepherds

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What to make of distant shouts
of hearty shepherds on the hills of Bethlehem
who after setting foot in a rustic stable
went on their way piercing the night air
with jubilant cries of ecstatic revelry?
Was it strong drink that produced
this riotous elation or had these
unruly herdsmen come across
something to really shout about?

Published in: on 12/14/2017 at 4:02  Leave a Comment  
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Totally Unexplainable

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Don’t try to explain the Incarnation to me! It is further from being explainable than the furthest star in the furthest galaxy. It is love, God’s limitless love enfleshing that love into the form of a human being, Jesus, the Christ, fully human and fully divine Don’t try to explain the Incarnation to me! It is further from being explainable than the furthest star in the furthest galaxy. It is love, God’s limitless love enfleshing that love into the form of a human being, Jesus, the Christ, fully human and fully divine.

–Madeleine L’Engle

Shining in the Darkness

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Published in: on 12/26/2016 at 9:44  Leave a Comment  
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Deity Downsized

jesus-in-the-mangerA lowly Babe lies in the lowly cradle of a lowly town, the offspring of a lowly mother. Look again. That child is the eternal “I AM.” He whose Deity never had birth, is born “the woman’s Seed.” He, whom no infinitudes can hold, is contained within infant’s age, and infant’s form. He, who never began to be, as God, here begins to be, as man. And can it be, that the great “I AM THAT I AM” shrinks into our flesh, and is little upon our earth, as one newborn of yesterday? It is so. The Lord promised it. Prophets foretold it. Types prefigured it. An angel announces it. Heaven rings with rapture at it. Faith sees it. The redeemed rejoice in it.

–Henry Law

The Weakness of the Almighty

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He was created of
a mother whom He created.
He was carried by hands that He formed.
He cried in the manger in wordless infancy,
He, the Word, without whom all
human eloquence is mute.

–St. Augustine

Published in: on 12/16/2016 at 21:35  Leave a Comment  
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The Scandalous God

manger-baby-copy-2The incarnation is a kind of vast joke whereby the Creator of the ends of the earth comes among us in diapers… Until we too have taken the idea of the God-man seriously enough to be scandalized by it, we have not taken it as seriously as it demands to be taken.
         –Frederick Buechner

The Descent of God

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He has entered our flesh,
our frailty, our failures.
You don’t have to lift
yourself an inch.
He’s come all the way down.

–Glen Scrivener

Published in: on 12/14/2016 at 9:30  Leave a Comment  
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The Unscripted God

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In the place least expected,
in the way least expected,
under conditions least expected,
God shows up.

Unpredictable, unimaginable,
incomprehensible.
Divinity and humanity
in one bundle.

Splendor in a stable
Divinity in diapers
Majesty in a manger
This is our God.

Goodness Came Among Us

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If, so to say,
the Idea of the Good
has actually entered
the room and spoken,
we have to stop
our former discussion
and listen.

–Lesslie Newbigin

When Holiness Came Down

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THE BIGGEST AND MOST DECISIVE EVENT that has ever happened or can happen on this planet took place. The Incarnate Creator visited our world—and we rightly sing: “O, Holy Night.” His entrance into time made that night, and in a sense every night, holy. His incursion into the human race underscores the sacredness of every human life. His presence in our world turned a stable into a holy place, and since He walked the soil and breathed the air of our planet, it too has become a holy place. He labored as a carpenter, making work a holy vocation. He finally died on a cross—and transformed that instrument of the curse into something holy.

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When He comes into our lives He fulfills the original design that we should be holy and without blame before Him. And when He finishes doing what He is going to do all things in heaven and earth will be reconciled to God and goodness. He will make every molecule in the universe vibrate in delightful harmony with his holiness. In Christ all things return to wholeness and happiness.

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This is cosmic news—the Good News that will make every planet, every cell, every thing dance with joy at the wonder of it.

Holy moly.

–Jurgen O. Schulz

A Terrible Force

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Loving humility is a terrible force:
it is the strongest of all things,
and there is nothing else like it.

–Fydor Dostoyevsky
The Brothers Karamazov

One Can Never be Sure

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THE CHILD IS BORN in the night among the beasts. The sweet breath and steaming dung of the beasts. And nothing is ever the same again.

Those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of him again. Once they have seen him in a stable, they can never be sure where he will appear or to what lengths he will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation he will descend in his wild pursuit of man . . .

–Frederick Buechner
The Hungering Dark

God had to come

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Published in: on 12/16/2015 at 3:51  Leave a Comment  
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Searching by starlight

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And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect.
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.

–U. A. Fanthorpe

Within our grasp

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Invisible in His own nature
[God] became visible in ours.
Beyond our grasp,
He chose to come within our grasp.

–Leo the Great

Not a code or an idea

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If the Word had become printer’s ink, it would have become a code. If the Word had become an idea, it would have been a philosophy. But the Word became flesh and therefore became a gospel—good news.

–E. Stanley Jones
The Way to Power and Poise

Grace descended

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Man fell miserably,
but God descended mercifully;
man fell through his pride,
God descended with his grace.

–St. Augustine

When God was made like man

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‘Twas much, that man
was made like God before,
But, that God should be made
like man, much more.

–Dr. John Donne,
Holy Sonnets (no. XV)

Image: http://www.gerrit-van-honthorst.org/

The coming of God

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We cannot take a step
toward the heavens.
God crosses the universe
and comes to us.

–Simone Weil

Redemptively Invaded

earth 22 copy 2The Gospel is not an academic discussion of truth—a set of doctrines about life, but an interpretation of “things” (Lk. 1:1) . . . Some “things” had happened on this earth that had never happened before—our planet has been invaded by God—redemptively invaded. That is the biggest and most decisive “thing” that has ever happened or can happen on this planet. . . .

This is cosmic news—the Good News, that will make every planet, every cell, every thing dance with joy at the wonder of it.

Of all the things that have happened, or could happen this is the thing . . . the Central Cosmic Fact: God appeared on a little planet to take us by the hand and put us back on the Way. This is news—Good News—comparatively speaking, the only Good News that ever reached our planet.

-–E. Stanley Jones

Glory in the common

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When fascinated
with the spectacular,
we will miss glory
in the common.
A stable in Bethlehem
is not exactly
a flashy venue.

–Stephen Crosby

 

Published in: on 11/30/2015 at 17:02  Leave a Comment  
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Holiness in a barn

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Once they have seen him in a stable, they can never be sure where he will appear or to what lengths he will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation he will descend in his wild pursuit of mankind.

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If holiness and the awful power and majesty of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, the birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly and earthbound but that holiness can be present there too.

–Frederick Buechner
Secrets in the Dark

Image:
“Behold The Lamb Of God”
by Walter Rane

He will not be without us

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The Maker
of heaven
and earth in His
overflowing love
will not be
without us.
He’s freely
come to us
in Jesus.

–T. F. Torrance

 

Image: “Nativity” by 
Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre

 

Dreams come true

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The place that
the shepherds found
was not an academy
or an abstract republic,
it was not a place of myths . . .
explained or explained away.
It was a place of dreams
come true.

–G. K. Chesterton
The Everlasting Man

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