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Wednesday, 3 January 2018

The Uncontrollable Mystery on the Bestial Floor

William Yeats
The poet William Yeats wrote a strange enigmatic and unusual short poem called "The Magi" which ends with this well-known line, "The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor." He was referring to the incarnation - the uncontrollable mystery -  the baby who was born among the beasts in a humble stable. I am not sure what Yeats meant by "uncontrollable" and the word "unfathomable" would be better.

With the glitz of Christmas over, it may be time to ponder this remarkable mystery - God made flesh.

The greatest miracle?
Of all God's many acts of power and wonder, the Incarnation must rank as the first. When it comes to mysteries, the Trinity comes first - the union in One of three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But the Trinity was Something that always was, whereas the Incarnation was an act of God whereby the Son of God took on human flesh at one point in time and space - surely the greatest of all God's many mighty acts of power.

Let's ponder this miracle and worship......

The Son of God became a real man
The Son of God did not become a "sort of human being", he became a true human being like you and me. While his father was not Joseph, his true mother was Mary. The power of God overshadowed Mary and the Holy Spirit performed a miracle in her womb, but Jesus Christ was a true man, who came, as Paul puts it in Romans 8:3, in "the likeness of sinful man." That is, Jesus was as close to us as it was possible to be  but without sin.

As a man Jesus could get tired, become ill, injure himself and be tempted as we are but always without sin.

The Son of God continued to be God
Although at the point of his conception the Son of God became a true man, yet he continued to be God. The angel Gabriel made it clear that the one to be born would be called the Son of God - his divine title.

The Son of God was One Person with Two Natures
And so this is where the mystery runs deepest. In One Person, the Son of God combined two natures. He was at one and the same time, true man and true God. These natures did not mix so that a third nature arose, but were combined in One Person, with One Will and One I, forever! Who can ever begin to understand such a thing? How can Someone be both all-knowing and limited in knowledge? How can Someone be both limited to one point in space and time in his human nature and yet be omnipresent in his divine nature?

All kinds of errors have arisen over time in regard to this point of doctrine. Some have said that Jesus was only part God and part man. Some have said he became a new nature - a mix of human and divine. Some have said he wasn't really man or that he wasn't really divine. But Scripture - and orthodox tradition going back to Chalcedon - teach that Jesus Christ was both true God and true Man in one Person.

"He became what he was not (a man) and continued to be what he always was (God)."

The only thing that changed when the Son of God took on human flesh is that he laid aside the trappings of his divine majesty and humbled himself. Once risen and ascended into heaven he regained the glory he once had with his Father.

The Reasons for the Incarnation
The Son of God took on human flesh to save us. To pay for the sins of men he had to become a man, but to pay for all of our sins, he had to be God. To become the mediator between God and man, he had to be a man to represent us and he had to be God to represent Himself. All for love's sake he became man! What a wonder and what love!

The Son of God took on human flesh so that God could understand our plight. God knows from the inside what pain, sorrow, bereavement and loss are all about because in heaven, at this very moment, stands a true human being, who is our advocate. The claim, "God does not understand my situation" is now and forevermore a lie!

The Son of God became a man to set an example of self-giving for the sake of others. That is the meaning of the beautiful poem in Philippians chapter 2. Paul introduces the highest doctrine imaginable to sort out the most mundane problem  - Christians seeking their own will. What did Jesus do? He gave up what he wanted for the sake of others.

When we pray, let us remember that in heaven there is a man who understands our lot as men and women living in a broken world. He understands all the trials and temptations of this passing world, yet without sin.

Meekness and majesty,
Manhood and Deity,
In perfect harmony,
The Man who is God.
Lord of eternity
Dwells in humanity,
Kneels in humility
And washes our feet.

O what a mystery,
Meekness and majesty.
Bow down and worship
For this is your God,
This is your God.

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