“The Staggering Mystery of Christmas” (Part 3) by J.I. Packer
The baby born at Bethlehem was God made man.
The Word had become ﬂesh: a real human baby. He had not ceased to be God; He was no less God then than before; but He had begun to be man. He was not now God minus some elements of His deity, but God plus all that He had made His own by taking manhood to Himself. He who made man was now learning what it felt like to be man. He who made the angel who became the devil was now in a state in which He could be tempted—could not, indeed, avoid being tempted—by the devil; and the perfection of His human life was achieved only by conflict with the devil. The epistle to the Hebrews, looking up to Him in His ascended glory, draws great comfort from this fact.
“He had to be made like his brothers in every way … Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted … For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15-16).
The mystery of the Incarnation is unfathomable. We cannot explain it; we can only formulate it. Perhaps it has never been formulated better than in the words of the Athanasian Creed. “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man … perfect God, and perfect man … who although He be God and man: yet He is not two, but one Christ; one, not by conversion of the Godhead into ﬂesh: but by taking of the manhood into God.” Our minds cannot get beyond this. What we see in the manger is, in Charles Wesley’s words,
Our God contracted to a span; Incomprehensibly made man.
Incomprehensibly. We shall be wise to remember this, to shun speculation and contentedly to adore.