“The central fact of the entire history of the world” by Herman Bavinck

“The doctrine of Christ is the central point of the whole system of dogmatics.

Here, too, pulses the whole of the religious-ethical life of Christianity.

Christ, the incarnate Word, is thus the central fact of the entire history of the world.

The incarnation has its presupposition and foundation in the trinitarian being of God.

The Trinity makes possible the existence of a mediator who himself participates both in the divine and human nature and thus unites God and humanity.

The incarnation, however, is the work of the entire Trinity.

Christ was sent by the Father and conceived by the Holy Spirit. Incarnation is also related to creation.

The incarnation was not necessary, but the creation of human beings in God’s image is a supposition and preparation for the incarnation of God.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 235.

“He is conceived in the fullness of time by the Holy Spirit in Mary” by Herman Bavinck

“Promised under the Old Testament as the Messiah who is to come as a descendant of a woman of Abraham, Judah, and David, He is conceived in the fullness of time by the Holy Spirit in Mary (Matt. 1:20) and born of her, of a woman (Gal. 4:4).

He is her son (Luke 2:7), the fruit of her womb (Luke 1:42), a descendant of David and Israel according to the flesh (Acts 2:30; Rom. 1:3; 9:5), sharing in our flesh and blood, like us in all things, sin excepted (Heb. 2:14, 17–18; 4:15; 5:1); a true human, the Son of Man (Rom. 5:15; 1 Cor. 15:21; 1 Tim. 2:5), growing up as an infant (Luke 2:40, 52), experiencing hunger (Matt. 4:2), thirst (John 19:28), weeping (Luke 19:41; John 11:35), being moved (John 12:27), feeling grief (Matt. 26:38), being furious (John 2:17), suffering, dying.

For Scripture it is so much an established fact that Christ came in the flesh that it calls the denial of it anti-Christian (1 John 2:22). And it teaches that Christ assumed not only a true but also a complete human nature.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 296.

“This is the heart of the gospel” by Herman Bavinck

“There is one mediator between God and humanity, the true God-man Jesus Christ.

This is the heart of the gospel.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ (Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend; vol. 1; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 237.

“He forever wears our nature and all our concerns are written upon His heart” by John Newton

“It is a comfortable consideration, that he with whom we have to do, our great High Priest, who once put away our sins by the sacrifice of Himself, and now forever appears in the presence of God for us, is not only possessed of sovereign authority and infinite power, but wears our very nature, and feels and exercises in the highest degree those tendernesses and commiserations, which I conceive are essential to humanity in its perfect state.

The whole history of his wonderful life is full of inimitable instances of this kind. His bowels of mercy were moved before His arm was exerted: He condescended to mingle tears with mourners, and wept over distresses which He intended to relieve.

He is still the same in his exalted state; compassions dwell within His heart.

In a way inconceivable to us, but consistent with His supreme dignity and perfection of happiness and glory, He still feels for his people.

When Saul persecuted the members upon earth, the Head complained from heaven; and sooner shall the most tender mother sit insensible and inattentive to the cries and wants of her infant, than the Lord Jesus be an unconcerned spectator of His suffering children.

No, with the eye, and the ear, and the heart of a friend, He attends to their sorrows; He counts their sighs, He puts their tears in His bottle; and when our spirits are overwhelmed within us, He knows our path, and adjusts the time, the measure of our trials, and everything that is necessary for our present support and seasonable deliverance, with the same unerring wisdom and accuracy as He weighed the mountains in scales and hills in a balance, and meted out the heavens with a span.

Still more, besides His benevolence, He has an experimental, sympathy. He knows our sorrows, not merely as He knows all things, but as one who has been in our situation, and who, though without sin Himself, endured when upon earth inexpressibly more for us than He will ever lay upon us.

He has sanctified poverty, pain, disgrace, temptation, and death, by passing through these states: and in whatever states His people are, they may by faith have fellowship with Him in their sufferings, and He will by sympathy and love have fellowship and interest with them in theirs.

What then shall we fear, or of what shall we complain, when all our concerns are written upon His heart, and their management, to the very hairs of our head, are under His care and providence? When He pities us more than we can do ourselves, and has engaged His almighty power to sustain and relieve us?

However, as He is tender, He is wise also: He loves us, but especially with regard to our best interests. If there were not something in our hearts and our situation that required discipline and medicine, He so delights in our prosperity, that we should never be in heaviness.

The innumerable comforts and mercies with which He enriches even those we call darker days, are sufficient proofs that He does not willingly grieve us: but when He sees a need-be for chastisement, He will not withhold it because He loves us.

On the contrary, that is the very reason why He afflicts. He will put His silver into the fire to purify it; but He sits by the furnace as a refiner, to direct the process, and to secure the end He has in view, that we may neither suffer too much nor suffer in vain.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 2: 20-21.

“A super-infinite plan” by Maximus the Confessor (A.D. 580–662)

“For it was fitting for the Creator of the universe, who by the economy of His incarnation became what by nature He was not, to preserve without change both what He himself was by nature and what He became in His incarnation.

For naturally we must not consider any change at all in God, nor conceive any movement in Him. Being changed properly pertains to movable creatures.

This is the great and hidden mystery, at once the blessed end for which all things are ordained. It is the divine purpose conceived before the beginning of created beings.

In defining it we would say that this mystery is the preconceived goal for which everything exists, but which itself exists on account of nothing.

With a clear view to this end, God created the essences of created beings, and such is, properly speaking, the terminus of His providence and of the things under His providential care.

Inasmuch as it leads to God, it is the recapitulation of the things He has created. It is the mystery which circumscribes all the ages, and which reveals the grand plan of God (Eph. 1:10–11), a super-infinite plan infinitely preexisting the ages.

The Logos, by essence God, became a messenger of this plan (Isa. 9:6) when He became a man and, if I may rightly say so, established Himself as the innermost depth of the Father’s goodness while also displaying in Himself the very goal for which His creatures manifestly received the beginning of their existence.”

–Maximus the Confessor, Ad Thalassium 60, in On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ: Selected Writings from St Maximus the Confessor, ed. John Behr, trans. Paul M. Blowers and Robert Louis Wilken, vol. 25, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003), 124–125.

“The Seed of Abraham who existed before Abraham” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“Hence, since the Virgin conceived and brought forth a Son, because of His manifest nature of servant, we read: ‘A child is born to us’ (Isaiah 9:6); but, because the Word of God, which remains forever, became flesh so that He might dwell with us, on account of His real, though hidden nature of God, we, using the words of the Angel Gabriel, call ‘his name Emmanuel.’ (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23)

Remaining God, He has become Man so that the Son of Man may rightly be called ‘God with us’ and so that in Him God is not one person and man another.

Let the world rejoice in those who believe, for whose salvation He came, by whom the world was made, the Creator of Mary born of Mary, the Son of David yet Lord of David, the Seed of Abraham who existed before Abraham, the Fashioner of this earth fashioned on this earth, the Creator of heaven created as Man under the light of heaven.

This is the day which the Lord has made and the Lord Himself is the bright Day of our heart.

Let us walk in His light; let us exult and be glad in Him.”

–Augustine of Hippo, “Sermon 187: On the Birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons (ed. Hermigild Dressler; trans. Mary Sarah Muldowney; vol. 38; The Fathers of the Church; Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1959), 38: 16-17.

“Your God has become man” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“That day is called the birthday of the Lord on which the Wisdom of God manifested Himself as a speechless Child and the Word of God wordlessly uttered the sound of a human voice.

His divinity, although hidden, was revealed by heavenly witness to the Magi and was announced to the shepherds by angelic voices.

With yearly ceremony, therefore, we celebrate this day which saw the fulfillment of the prophecy: ‘Truth is sprung out of the earth: and justice hath looked down from heaven.’ (Psalm 84:12)

Truth, eternally existing in the bosom of the Father, has sprung from the earth so that He might exist also in the bosom of a mother.

Truth, holding the world in place, has sprung from the earth so that He might be carried in the hands of a woman.

Truth, incorruptibly nourishing the happiness of the angels, has sprung from the earth in order to be fed by human milk.

Truth, whom the heavens cannot contain, has sprung from the earth so that He might be placed in a manger.

For whose benefit did such unparalleled greatness come in such lowliness? Certainly for no personal advantage, but definitely for our great good, if only we believe.

Arouse yourself, O man; for your God has become man. ‘Awake, sleeper, and arise from among the dead, and Christ will enlighten thee.’ (Eph. 5:14)

For you, I repeat, God has become man.

If He had not thus been born in time, you would have been dead for all eternity.

Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, if He had not taken upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh.

Everlasting misery would have engulfed you, if He had not taken this merciful form.

You would not have been restored to life, had He not submitted to your death; you would have fallen, had He not succored you; you would have perished, had He not come.

Let us joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festal day on which the great and timeless One came from the great and timeless day to this brief span of our day.

He ‘has become for us righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord. (1 Cor. 1:30-31)'”

–Augustine of Hippo, “Sermon 185: On the Birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons (ed. Hermigild Dressler; trans. Mary Sarah Muldowney; vol. 38; The Fathers of the Church; Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1959), 38: 6-7.

“God with us” by Charles Spurgeon

“Do you know what ‘God with us’ means? Has it been God with you in your tribulations, by the Holy Ghost’s comforting influence?

Has it been God with you in searching the Scriptures? Has the Holy Spirit shone upon the Word?

Has it been God with you in conviction, bringing you to Sinai? Has it been God with you in comforting you, by bringing you again to Calvary?

Do you know the full meaning of that name Immanuel, ‘God with us’? No; he who knows it best knows little of it.

Alas, he who knows it not at all is ignorant indeed; so ignorant that his ignorance is not bliss, but will be his damnation. Oh! may God teach you the meaning of that name Immanuel, ‘God with us’!

Now let us close. ‘Immanuel.’ It is wisdom’s mystery, ‘God with us.’

Sages look at it, and wonder; angels desire to see it; the plumb-line of reason cannot reach half-way into its depths; the eagle-wing of science cannot fly so high, and the piercing eye of the vulture of research cannot see it.

‘God with us.’ It is hell’s terror. Satan, trembles at the sound of it; his legions fly apace, the black-winged dragon of the pit quails before it.

Let him come to you suddenly, and do you but whisper that word, ‘God with us,’ back he falls, confounded and confused. Satan trembles when he hears that name, ‘God with us.’

It is the labourer’s strength; how could he preach the gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor own his Master, how could men labour if that one word were taken away? ‘God with us.’

’Tis the sufferer’s comfort, ’tis the balm of his woe, ’tis the alleviation of his misery, ’tis the sleep which God giveth to his beloved, ’tis their rest after exertion and toil.

Ah! and to finish, ‘God with us,’—’tis eternity’s sonnet, ’tis heaven’s hallelujah, ’tis the shout of the glorified, ’tis the song of the redeemed, ’tis the chorus of angels, ’tis the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky. “God with us.”

“Hail thou Immanuel, all divine,
In thee thy Father’s glories shine,
Thou brightest, sweetest, fairest One,
That eyes have seen or angels known.”

Now, a happy Christmas to you all; and it will be a happy Christmas if you have God with you.

I shall say nothing today against festivities on this great birthday of Christ. I hold that, perhaps, it is not right to have the birthday celebrated, but we will never be amongst those who think it as much a duty to celebrate it the wrong way as others the right.

But we will tomorrow think of Christ’s birthday; we shall be obliged to do it, I am sure, however sturdily we may hold to our rough Puritanism.

And so, “let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

Do not feast as if you wished to keep the festival of Bacchus; do not live tomorrow as if you adored some heathen divinity.

Feast, Christians, feast; you have a right to feast. Go to the house of feasting tomorrow, celebrate your Saviour’s birth; do not be ashamed to be glad, you have a right to be happy.

Solomon says, “Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.”

“Religion never was designed
To make our pleasures less.”

Recollect that your Master ate butter and honey. Go your way, rejoice tomorrow; but, in your feasting, think of the Man in Bethlehem; let Him have a place in your hearts, give Him the glory, think of the virgin who conceived Him, but think most of all of the Man born, the Child given.

I finish by again saying,—’A HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL!'”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Birth of Christ,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 40 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1894), 40: 610–611.

“He was wrapped in swaddling bands” by Gregory of Nazianzus (A.D. 330-390)

“He was begotten (Matt. 1:16)— yet He was already begotten (Ps. 2:7; Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5, 5:5)— of a woman (Gal. 4:4).

And yet she was a virgin (Matt. 1:23; Isa 7:14; Luke 1:34–35; Matt. 1:20). That it was from a woman makes it human, that she was a virgin makes it divine.

On earth He has no father (Matt. 1:20), but in heaven no mother (Ps. 2:7). All this is part of His Godhead.

He was carried in the womb (Luke 1:31), but acknowledged by a prophet as yet unborn himself, who leaped for joy at the presence of the Word for whose sake he had been created (Luke 1:41).

He was wrapped in swaddling bands (Luke 2:7, 12), but at the Resurrection He unloosed the swaddling bands of the grave (John 20:6-7).

He was laid in a manger (Luke 2:7, 16), but was extolled by angels, disclosed by a star and adored by Magi (Matt. 2:2, 7, 9–11).

Why do you take offense at what you see, instead of attending to its spiritual significance?

He was exiled into Egypt (Matt. 2:13-14), but He banished the Egyptian idols (Jude 5).

He had ‘no form or beauty’ for the Jews (Isa. 53:2), but for David He was ‘fairer than the children of men’ (Psalm 45:2) and on the mount He shines forth, becoming more luminous than the Sun (Matt. 17:2), to reveal the future mystery.”

–Gregory of Nazianzus, On God and Christ: The Five Theological Orations and Two Letters to Cledonius, ed. John Behr, trans. Frederick Williams and Lionel Wickham, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2002), 86–87.

“A Counselor to restore it” by Charles Spurgeon

“‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor.’—Isaiah 9:6

Last Sabbath morning we considered the first title, ‘His name shall be called Wonderful:’ this morning we take the second word, ‘Counselor.’

I need not repeat the remark, that of course these titles belong only to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that we cannot understand the passage except by referring it to Messiah—the Prince.

It was by a Counselor that this world was ruined.

Did not Satan mask himself in the serpent, and counsel the woman with exceeding craftiness, that she should take unto herself of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, in the hope that thereby she should be as God?

Was it not that evil counsel which provoked our mother to rebel against her Maker, and did it not as the effect of sin, bring death into this world with all its train of woe?

Ah! beloved, it was fitting that the world should have a Counselor to restore it, if it had a Counselor to destroy it. It was by counsel that it fell, and certainly, without counsel it never could have arisen.

But mark the difficulties that surrounded such a Counselor. ’Tis easy to counsel mischief; but how hard to counsel wisely! To cast down is easy, but to build up how hard!

To confuse this world, and bring upon it all its train of ills was an easy thing. A woman plucked the fruit and it was done.

But to restore order to this confusion, to sweep away the evils which brooded over this fair earth, this was work indeed, and ‘Wonderful’ was that Christ who came forward to attempt the work, and who in the plentitude of His wisdom hath certainly accomplished it, to His own honour and glory, and to our comfort and safety.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “His Name—The Counsellor,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 4 (London; Glasgow: Passmore & Alabaster; James Paul; George John Stevenson; George Gallie, 1858), 4: 401.