Veiled in flesh the Godhead see / Hail the incarnate Deity
—Charles Wesley, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” (1739)
Hail, hail, the Word made flesh, / the Babe the Son of Mary!
—William Dix, “What Child Is This?” (1865)
When He Comes
A multitude of angel warriors sing His birth. A new star blazes in the night sky. Shepherds abandon their flocks to search for the Child. Elderly saints speak in dark prophecy. Wise men come from the East bearing magnificent treasures. All this for a Baby, a Child whose only cradle is a feeding trough. Who is this Baby? What Child is this?
There was a time when everyone in this Western world knew the answer. There was a time when all in Christendom knew the story. But in this postmodern age, very few remember that story, let alone understand its significance. Many try to force it into their own stories. Many reject it out of hand as fable and myth. But the word of God says something different, something incredible and marvelous and profound.
The Son of Man
To begin with, the Baby in the manger is quite obviously a real human baby. He is flesh and bone, body, and soul. He has come forth in blood and pain from the womb of a real Jewish girl. His lungs breathe, His heart pumps, His neurons fire. Blood courses through His little veins. He cries and coos and suckles like any other human child. As the years pass, He will grow, mature, and learn. In due time He will learn to drink from a cup, tie a sandal, and count to one hundred. He will eat and drink and sweat and bleed. He will love and trust and pity and pray. This Baby is human.
The Baby in the manger is also Israel’s Messiah. He is the Child of promise and prophecy. He is the Seed of Abraham, the Son of David. He is the subject and theme of the Hebrew prophets, of that whole volume Christians call the Old Testament. He is the Lord’s Anointed, the Righteous Branch, the Suffering Servant of Yahweh, the Prophet like Moses, the Messenger of the Covenant, the Prince of Peace, Immanuel, and the Mighty God. In type and foreshadowing, He is the Lamb of God, the Tabernacle and Temple of God, our Great High Priest, the Bread of Heaven, and the Tree of Life. He is the legal and biological descendent of King David, and yet He is David’s Lord and God.
The Son of God
The Baby in the manger is eternal deity. He is the Son of God; that is to say, God the Son. He is the Second Person of the eternal Trinity. He is Yahweh. He is the divine Logos, the very Word of the Father. He is the brightness of the Father’s glory, the express image of His Person. He is the Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of the universe. He is Truth and Life and Light. He is the One to whom every knee will bow, the One whom every tongue will confess as Lord of all.
Very God, Very Man
This Baby in the manger is a single divine Person. He isn’t a child linked to the Godhead by moral union or psychic connection or covenant bonding. He is one Christ, one Lord, one Person existing eternally in two distinct natures: no less God for having become man; no less man for remaining eternal, transcendent God. And so this Baby is holy and human, Creator and creature, infinite and finite. St. Augustine described Him like this:
He is the Revealer of His Father and the Creator of His mother, the Son of God through His Father without a mother and the Son of Man through His mother without a father. He is great in the eternal day of the angels but small in the time-conditioned day of men. He is the Word of God before all time and the Word made Flesh in the fullness of time. Maker of the sun, He is made under the sun. Disposer of all ages in the bosom of His Father, He consecrates Christmas Day in the womb of His mother. In Him He remains while from her He goes forth. Creator of the heavens and the earth, He is born on earth under the heavens. Unspeakably wise, He is wisely speechless. Filling the universe, He lies in a manger. Ruler of the stars, He nurses at His mother’s bosom. He is both great in the nature of God and small in the form of a servant, but His greatness is not diminished by His smallness nor His smallness overwhelmed by His greatness.
The Second Adam
True God and true man, this baby comes as a Second Adam, a new and divine covenant Representative born to undo the work of the Fall. He comes to keep God’s covenant law in all its details. He comes to bear God’s infinite wrath against man’s sin and rebellion. He comes to create a new people who will love and serve God. He comes to make God’s grace and blessing flow throughout the wide creation. He comes to save His people from their sins.
The Savior of the World
This Baby is Jesus. Yeshua. Yahweh is salvation. “For,” said the angel, “He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). This Child comes to reconcile God and men, to propitiate the wrath of an offended God, to rescue hopeless sinners from their self-destructive pride and lusts, to give men forgiveness of sins and eternal life. He comes to die on a simple, lowly cross. He comes to rise again as Lord of all.
Read the headlines in the news today. We live in an age of increasing depravity and hopelessness. Politics has failed us. Science has failed us. Psychology has failed us. We need answers from above. We need a Savior. Two thousand years ago, God sent us his son. He came from outside our Universe to a virgin’s womb. He gave us Himself. What He asks of us is faith. We must believe who He is. We must believe in what He has done. And each of us must trust in Him as Savior, Lord, and God.