The Christmas story is staggering in all respects, a virgin, angels, a star… but the most staggering aspect must be that God invades the realm which he had created and takes on the dirt of the earth that he had taken and fashioned and given his own breath to – flesh! God himself becomes a human; yes, real flesh and blood, without ever stopping being God.
That is the staggering nature of the Gospel, the Good News – God has come, he has invaded ‘our space’!
We were on the run, we were hiding, and God came to find us and put things right.
He couldn’t do it from ‘out there’, he had to come here.
He couldn’t send someone else, he had to come himself.
- Our salvation necessitated it.
- Our restoration required it.
- Creation’s renewal demanded it.
He had to be both God and man, not one or the other. He must represent, and be both sides.
He alone could bridge the gap, the distance brought about by the Fall.
He alone could save and heal. As the early church Father Gregory said “the unassumed is the unredeemed.” God must assume the very likeness of our broken sinful flesh in order to redeem and heal it.
How? By the Holy Spirit – that’s all the Bible tells us; or in the words of the hymn writer – “God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man” (Charles Wesley). Mystery. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
The first few verses of Wesley’s Hark the Herald Angels Sing express it well:
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.
Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Then there are two verses that rarely ever get sung, and they are gospel loaded, a prayer applying the truth of the incarnation to one and all who will believe:
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 power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.
Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.
Loaded verses indeed! Full of Gospel truth. He has invaded ‘our space,’ taken it on, healed, redeemed and reconciled it in order to reinstate us in his love.
We were made by God for God, and God’s invasion of ‘our space’ is a declaration that God is for us.