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

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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.

Bethlehem changes 4

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.

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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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

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

When the singing began

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The song of the angels
to sighing humanity
is the beginning
of the infinite mystery
of the Incarnate God.
From this
all light is streaming,
all songs are coming,
all hope is flaming.

–G. Campbell Morgan
(1863–1945)

Photo credit:
The Albin Polasek Museum

The humility of God

adoration_of_the_shepherds

By far the most significant event in the whole course of human history will be celebrated, with or without understanding, at the end of this season of Advent… What we are in fact celebrating is the awe-inspiring humility of God, and no amount of familiarity with the trappings of Christmas should ever blind us to its quiet but explosive significance…

God’s insertion of himself
into human history came about
with an almost frightening
quietness and humility.

…As millions will testify, he will come once again with the same silence and the same devastating humility into any heart which is ready to receive him.

–J. B. Phillips
(1906-1982)

Artwork: Rembrandt

When God drew near

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On a wintry night
in an obscure cave,
the infant Jesus was
a humble, naked,
helpless God who
allowed us to get
close to him.

–Brennan Manning

Image: Michael Dudash

Ongoing astonishment

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Let the stable still astonish:
Straw-dirt floor,
Dusty flanks of donkeys, oxen;
Crumbling, crooked walls;
No bed to carry that pain,
And then, the child,
Rag-wrapped, laid to cry
In a trough.
Who would have chosen this?
Who would have said; “Yes,
Let the God of all the heavens
and earth
Be born here, in this place?”
Who but the same God
Who stands in the darker, fouler
rooms of our hearts
and says, “Yes,
let the God of Heaven and Earth
be born here….
in this place.

-Leslie Leyland Fields

Image: Michael Dudash

What the donkey saw

Donkey

No room in the inn, of course,
And not that much in the stable
What with the shepherds, Magi, Mary,
Joseph, the heavenly host –
Not to mention the baby
Using our manger as a cot.
You couldn’t have squeezed another cherub in
For love or money.

Still, in spite of the overcrowding,
I did my best to make them feel wanted.
I could see the baby and I
Would be going places together.

–U. A. Fanthorpe
(1929 – 2009)

Published in: on 12/22/2012 at 7:13  Leave a Comment  
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Rethinking God

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Christmas calls for
a total revolution
in our view of God.

–Glen Scrivener

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