“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“He humbled Himself to become man” by J.C. Ryle

“The New Testament begins with the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. No part of the Bible is so important as this, and no part is so full and complete.

Four distinct Gospels tell us the story of Christ’s doing and dying. Four times over we read the precious account of His works and words.

How thankful we ought to be for this! To know Christ is life eternal. To believe in Christ is to have peace with God. To follow Christ is to be a true Christian.

To be with Christ will be heaven itself. We can never hear too much about Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of St. Matthew begins with a long list of names. Sixteen verses are taken up with tracing a pedigree from Abraham to David, and from David to the family in which Jesus was born.

Let no one think that these verses are useless. Nothing is useless in creation. The least mosses, and the smallest insects, serve some good end. Nothing is useless in the Bible.

Every word of it is inspired. The chapters and verses which seem at first sight unprofitable, are all given for some good purpose, Look again at these sixteen verses, and you will see in them useful and instructive lessons.

Learn from this list of names, that God always keeps His word. He had promised, that in Abraham’s seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. He had promised to raise up a Saviour of the family of David. (Gen. 12:3; Isaiah 11:1.)

These sixteen verses prove, that Jesus was the son of David and the son of Abraham, and that God’s promise was fulfilled.—Thoughtless and ungodly people should remember this lesson, and be afraid. Whatever they may think, God will keep His word.

If they repent not, they will surely perish.—True Christians should remember this lesson, and take comfort. Their Father in heaven will be true to all His engagements.

He has said, that He will save all believers in Christ. If He has said it, He will certainly do it. “He is not a man that He should lie.” “He abideth faithful: He can not deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13.)

Learn next from this list of names the sinfulness and corruption of human nature. Observe how many godly parents in this catalogue had wicked and ungodly sons.

The names of Roboam, and Joram, and Amon, and Jechonias, should teach us humbling lessons. They had all pious fathers. But they were all wicked men.

Grace does not run in families. It needs something more than good examples and good advice to make us children of God.

They that are born again are not born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13.) Praying parents should pray night and day, that their children may be born of the Spirit.

Learn lastly from this list of names, how great is the mercy and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Think how defiled and unclean our nature is; and then think what a condescension it was in Him to be born of a woman, and “made in the likeness of men.”

Some of the names we read in this catalogue remind us of shameful and sad histories. Some of the names are those of persons never mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. But at the end of all comes the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Though He is the eternal God, He humbled Himself to become man, in order to provide salvation for sinners. “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor.”

We should always read this catalogue with thankful feelings. We see here that no one who partakes of human nature can be beyond the reach of Christ’s sympathy and compassion.

Our sins may have been as black and great as those of any whom St. Matthew names. But they can not shut us out of heaven, if we repent and believe the gospel.

If Jesus was not ashamed to be born of a woman, whose pedigree contained such names as those we have read today, we need not think that He will be ashamed to call us brethren, and to give us eternal life.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1856/2012), 2-3. Ryle is commenting on Matthew 1:1-17.

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“The Word of God made flesh” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“Wherefore the Word of God, who is also the Son of God, co-eternal with the Father, the Power and the Wisdom of God, (1 Corinthians 1:24) mightily pervading and harmoniously ordering all things, from the highest limit of the intelligent to the lowest limit of the material creation, revealed and concealed, nowhere confined, nowhere divided, nowhere distended, but without dimensions, everywhere present in His entirety— this Word of God, I say, took to Himself, in a manner entirely different from that in which He is present to other creatures, the soul and body of a man, and made, by the union of Himself therewith, the one person Jesus Christ, Mediator between God and men, (1 Timothy 2:5) in His Deity equal with the Father, in His flesh, in His human nature, inferior to the Father— unchangeably immortal in respect of the divine nature, in which He is equal with the Father, and yet changeable and mortal in respect of the infirmity which was His through participation with our nature.”

–Augustine of Hippo, Letter 137 (A.D. 412), translated by J.G. Cunningham, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 1. Edited by Philip Schaff (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887), 1: 477-478.

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“Christ has His arms outstretched to embrace us” by John Calvin

“Let everyone one of us know for his own part, how we had forgotten God and were quite turned away from Him in our dissoluteness until He called us again to Him.

When we know this, let us learn to magnify His grace for vouchsafing to reconcile us to Himself and to put away all the enmity that was between Him and us, and to make us His children who were His deadly enemies, assuring ourselves that all this is done through our Lord Jesus Christ, in order that out of that fountain we should draw all that belongs to our salvation.

And furthermore, let us consider also what encouragement we have by the helps God has given us by which to come to Jesus Christ, and to confirm us in Him in order that we may have a settled and sure doctrine.

When the gospel is daily preached to us, Jesus Christ is offered in it to us, and He, for His part, calls us to Himself. To be short, He has His arms outstretched to embrace us. Let us understand that.

And afterwards let us add the sacraments. And, seeing that Jesus Christ has not only commanded the open preaching of the gospel, by which He shows Himself to be our Shepherd and that He will have us to be His flock, but also confirms it by baptism and by the Supper, let us take good heed that we do not make those signs useless through our own evil and ingratitude.

But let us rather consider to what end God has ordained them, and let us so use them that we may grow more and more in faith and be thereby inflamed with such zeal that we may endeavor to give ourselves wholly to God, since it has pleased Him also to give Himself to us.”

–John Calvin, Sermons on the Epistle to the Ephesians (trans. Arthur Golding; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1562/1973), 183. Calvin is preaching on Ephesians 2:11-13.

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“In faithful wonder” by Herman Bavinck

“The theological task calls for humility. Full comprehension is impossible; wonder and mystery always remain.

This must not be identified with the New Testament notion of mystery, which refers to that which was unknown but has now been revealed in the history of salvation culminating in Christ.

Neither is it a secret gnosis available only to an elite, nor is it unknown because of the great divide between the natural and the supernatural.

The divide is not so much metaphysical as it is spiritual—sin is the barrier.

The wonder of God’s love may not be fully comprehended by believers in this age, but what is known in part and seen in part is known and seen.

In faithful wonder the believer is not conscious of living in the face of mystery that surpasses reason and thus it is not an intellectual burden.

Rather, in the joy of God’s grace there is intellectual liberation.

Faith turns to wonder; knowledge terminates in adoration; and confession becomes a song of praise and thanksgiving.

Faith is the knowledge which is life, ‘eternal life’ (John 17:3).”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena, vol. 1, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 1: 602.

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