This glorious God of one essence in three Persons, self-existent, self-sufficient, and (source of) love itself, resided in completeness and excellency. God the Father, Creator of all; God the Son, Redeemer of man; God the Holy Spirit, Teacher of all things.
Existing for eternity past, God the Son dwelt together with the Godhead being adored and worshipped by all the hosts of heaven. Yet, despite the grandeurs and wonders of glory with the Godhead, the Son lowered himself to take on the likeness of human flesh.
God became man; The Word became flesh.
There are few phrases that carry as much glorious mystery as this one. This did not result in the Son losing his divinity, rather He chose not to exploit this divinity and took on human flesh. More so, God the Son took on the form of a servant. He could have very well chosen to be born in earthly royalty and proceed in his plan this way. Yet, He stooped to our level, the lowest of low. The omnipotent God who spoke creation into existence is now mute infant lying in a manger.
For what purpose? Why would this self-existent and self-sufficient God choose to come in human flesh? Out of sheer love for his people. Had not the Son of God become flesh to stand in our place and bear the wrath the was due us, we would have utterly perished. Yet, the mystery is heightened, God would have remained completely just and holy if He remained in the grandeurs of heaven. But because of his love so magnificent, He took on human flesh to make His people alive through his bodily death and resurrection. Because of our inability to satisfy the righteousness of God, “He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest pin the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
In Him was life, and life was the light of men.
This word becoming flesh, and thereby not ceasing to be the Word, is for worship and adoration. This Word lived a humiliating and self-denying life in order to bring us to God, where pleasures and treasures are forever. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name. Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness. This God becoming man, not ceasing to be God, is for comfort and assurance. When the valleys of doubt and suffering begin to cave in, look to the One who is the life and light of men. “You have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Christian, your seat at the King’s table is purchased, recline and feast.
Aesthetically I drew a lot of inspiration from folk art. I’ve mentioned Native American art, but I also drew from Pennsylvania Dutch art, Scandinavian folk tales, psychedelic rock, and a whole lot of outsider art. There are a few reasons why I chose to incorporate so much folk art.
The first is quite honestly to challenge some people’s assumption of what art should be. Folk art, by definition, is done by untrained artists, yet it communicates so much emotion and resonates strongly with the viewer. Which leads to my second reason to use folk art: Folk art is the most human form of art. For that reason, it’s the perfect style to depict the incarnation of Christ. There is not training, no pretense, they have an urge to create something and they do. For your typical artist, there is also a nagging to please the critics, whether they are at a prestigious school, a gallery in New York, or on Instagram. Outsider artist are honest in a way I couldn’t be.
The piece explores the two natures of Christ, both fully God and at the same time fully man. The figure of Christ also forms the features of a mans face, and an illusory border remind us that both realities exist at once. The arcs that form the head and chin of the man represent the baptism of Christ, where the ministry (and divinity) of the Son was affirmed by the audible voice of God the Father and the manifestation of the Spirit in the form of a dove, and the other represents the wrath of God, which was poured out on Christ on our behalf. Another idea that captured my attention when thinking through these issues is our union with Christ. Christ became united with humanity, and because of His work we are able to become united with Him. There is an image in Isaiah 61 of the Messiah wearing “garments of salvation” and “robes of righteousness,” and in Revelation 19 the bride of Christ is also clothed in righteousness. I depicted Christ quite literally in a robe, and I thought of Native American robes. Native Americans would paint many things on robes, but men would always paint the heroic deeds they had done, the battles they had won, and the trophies they had secured. I included symbols for a few of the members of Emmaus as trophies on the robe of Christ.
God Holy became man. Cradle warmed by
The Sun of his own hands, if skin by knife
Prick’d, look — his blood would taste of us. No strife,
No speech: silent sat the babe who spoke the sky,
His cries, omniscient tears, eternal eye.
Heaven clasp Earth with soft, firm hands; a life
Of want, no room, no bed, though fortune rife
Deserved. God Holy became man. But why?
He would take up a heart to beat for us,
Eyes to weep for us, tongue to pray and preach
For us, hands and side be pierced for us: thus
His flowing blood would vilest sinner reach —
Lifted high to die, humble lustrous Glory!
But Bethlehem? Meekness sparks the Story.
*The glory of incarnation is hard to capture in 14 lines. I wanted at first to contrast the tenderness of new life with the glory of Heaven. Babies are silent, they cannot speak, except when they want to cry. God himself subjected himself to such humility. Although he spoke the world into existence, and upholds the universe by the word of his power, in the manger he could not utter human language. He could only cry. But in his crying he is wiser than any earthly king. Have you ever felt a baby’s hands? They are soft, vulnerable — yet these little hands firmly held the world. How incredible that Christ would leave the palaces of Heaven for the slop bucket of earth.
In writing this piece, I was inspired by a few quotes by one of the most silver-tongued puritans, Samuel Rutherford. He writes so beautifully in The Trial and Triumph of Faith of a God who would take on all the nuances of human form, so as to leverage that human form to save sinners like us. I attempted to convey that image in the last stanza. Finally, I compare Calvary and Bethlehem. We often look to the cross as a symbol of Jesus’ humility, and rightfully so. The King was unjustly accused and “opened not his mouth” (Is 53:7). But the birth of Jesus, and more specifically the incarnation, shows us that he began his life in the same sacrificial humility that he ended it with. This humility, as Philippians 2 tells us, is the primary reason for his supremacy over all things, in heaven and on earth.
Finally, you may notice some overlap of words and themes from last weeks sonnet on glory. This is intentional: glory and humility walk hand in hand. God uses both simultaneously to accomplish his purposes in Christ. Oh the mesmerizing contrast of Christmas!