And God Became Man


icon nativity of Christ

The Christmas season, in the material & commercial sense anyway, is now past for another year. It is no wonder why most are thankful that it is over & done. This year seemed to be especially marked by dissension over the role of religion in our public lives as once again Christmas trees & Nativity scenes continue to be fodder for lawsuits & controversy for media headlines. The television airwaves once again proliferated with Christmas shows that failed to mention Christ. My own workplace under the misapplied & misunderstood ideal of separation of church & state, having long ago relabeled our Christmas & Easter parties as Holiday & Spring parties, went undecorated in accordance with political correctness this season for the 1st time in its 24 year history.

The response by the religious sector was often just as aggressive & just as secular. Increasing numbers of Christians rail against the “pagan” Christmas tree, the “pagan origins” of Christmas & the “pagans” who erect them in their homes, churches, businesses & workplaces. At the same time other Christians relished in & threw about numerous seemingly religious one-liner quips & rhyming zingers with impunity. I cannot help but chafe at spam emails or postings in which one must “prove” their Christian Faith by responding, forwarding, sharing, reposting, liking…& the proliferation of messages attacking other Christians. Is the secular world not antagonistic enough towards us already? Such things just are not in keeping with the Christmas spirit—the Spirit of Christ—if there truly is such a thing in the truest sense & meaning anymore.

When & how did this become acceptable? Perhaps it was when Christians began cancelling their religious services when December 25th falls on a Sunday thus nullifying their cherished quaint quips? Perhaps it was when a “Like” or “Share” icon became proof & profession of Christian Faith rather than Christian life. Perhaps it was when Christmas decorations & thus belief became not Christian enough. Perhaps it was when we Christians began to allow the Spirit of Christ to be separated from the Christmas spirit. Is it any wonder that the secular world is so antagonistic towards us? At times, given the ash, trash & garbage into which the Christmas & the holiday seasons have decayed, I wonder if this may not be a good thing. Perhaps we need to get religion out of Christmas in order that we can “put Christ back in Christmas”.

“…Who for us men & for our salvation came down from heaven & was incarnate of the Holy Spirit & the Virgin Mary & became man…”

I think that we need to start by realizing that Jesus is not the reason for the season, but rather mankind is, or more properly the salvation of mankind. The “reason for the season” of the Incarnation, Crucifixion & Resurrection of Christ is to restore fallen mankind to blessed union with God by healing the disease of sin that leads to death. A previous blog focused on “God is Love” as the beginning assumption of the Gospel message. Here, in the Incarnation, the fullness of the Gospel message (the Love of God) is revealed to man in the person of Jesus Christ, the visible image of the invisible God. Just imagine, the Only-Begotten Son of God revealed in the image & likeness of an innocent, defenseless child!

Christ Is Born! Glorify Him!

I will close this with some quotes from the Church Fathers from the 2nd – 5th centuries on the Incarnation & the accomplishment of our salvation as well as some songs from Nativity sung by the Orthodox Church. The final piece is the Canon of the Nativity which consists of 9 Odes or songs which I & another woman had the honor & privilege to sing before Divine Liturgy Christmas morning. I thought about using only parts of it, but found it just too beautiful in its completeness.

[A.D. 110–165] Justin Martyr; The Second Apology of Justin; Chap. XIII:

For next to God, we worship & love the Word who is from the unbegotten & ineffable God, since also He became man for our sakes, that, becoming a partaker of our sufferings, He might also bring us healing.

[A.D. 120-202] Irenaeus of Lyons; Irenæus against Heresies; Book V; Chap. XVI:

And then, again, this Word was manifested when the Word of God was made man, assimilating Himself to man, & man to Himself, so that by means of his resemblance to the Son, man might become precious to the Father. For in times long past, it was said that man was created after the image of God, but it was not [actually] shown for the Word was as yet invisible, after whose image man was created. Wherefore also he did easily lose the similitude. When, however, the Word of God became flesh, He confirmed both these: for He both showed forth the image truly, since He became Himself what was His image; & He re-established the similitude after a sure manner, by assimilating man to the invisible Father through means of the visible Word.

[A.D. 153–193–217] Clement of Alexandria; Exhortation to the Heathen; Chap. 1:

But if thou dost not believe the prophets, but supposest both the men & the fire a myth, the Lord Himself shall speak to thee, “who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but humbled Himself,”—He, the merciful God, exerting Himself to save man. And now the Word Himself clearly speaks to thee, shaming thy unbelief; yea, I say, the Word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become God.

[A.D. 170–236] Hippolytus of Rome; Treatise on Christ & Antichrist; ¶ 26:

He showed all power given by the Father to the Son, who is ordained Lord of things in heaven, & things on earth, & things under the earth, & Judge of all: of things in heaven, because He was born, the Word of God, before all (ages); & of things on earth, because He became man in the midst of men, to re-create our Adam through Himself; & of things under the earth, because He was also reckoned among the dead, preaching the Gospel to the souls of the saints, (&) by death overcoming death.

[A.D. 205–240–265] Pseudo-Gregory Thaumaturgus; The Second Homily on the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary:

It brings us then the glad tidings of that economy of the Savior, which is worthy of all praise, to wit, that, though He was God, He became man through kindness toward man, & did not lay aside, indeed, the dignity which was His from all eternity, but assumed the economy that should work salvation. It brings us the glad tidings of that economy of the Savior worthy of all praise, to wit, that He sojourned with us as a physician for the sick, who did not heal them with potions, but restored them by the inclination of His philanthropy.

It brings us the glad tidings of this economy of the Savior altogether to be praised, to wit, that to them who had wandered astray the way of salvation was shown, & that to the despairing the grace of salvation was made known, which blesses all in different modes; searching after the erring, enlightening the blinded, giving life to the dead, setting free the slaves, redeeming the captives, & becoming all things to all of us in order to be the true way of salvation to us: & all this He does, not by reason of our good-will toward Him, but in virtue of a benignity that is proper to our Benefactor Himself. For the Savior did all, not in order that He might acquire virtue Himself, but that He might put us in possession of eternal life.

[A.D. 298-373] Athanasius of Alexandria

On the Incarnation of the Word; § 54:3:

For He was made man that we might be made God; & He manifested Himself by a body that we might receive the idea of the unseen Father; & He endured the insolence of men that we might inherit immortality.

On Luke 10:22 (Matt. 11:27); § 3:

Thus, then, we may understand all things to have been delivered to the Savior, &, if it be necessary to follow up understanding by explanation, that hath been delivered unto Him which He did not previously possess. For He was not man previously, but became man for the sake of saving man.

[A.D. 347-407] John Chrysostom; Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the First Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to Timothy; Homily 11:

Therefore he says, “without controversy great is the mystery.” Great indeed was it. For God became Man, & Man became God. A Man was seen without sin! A Man was received up, was preached in the world! Together with us the Angels saw Him. This is indeed a mystery!

[A.D. 381] The Symbol of Faith; aka: The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (excerpt):

I believe…in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father through Whom all things were made. Who for us men & for our salvation came down from heaven & was incarnate of the Holy Spirit & the Virgin Mary & became man. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, & suffered & was buried; & He rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven & is seated at the right hand of the Father; & He will come again with glory to judge the living & dead. His kingdom shall have no end…Amen.

Songs of the Orthodox Church for the

Nativity of our Lord God & Savior Jesus Christ

Troparion: Your Nativity, O Christ our God, Has shone to the world the Light of wisdom! For by it, those who worshipped the stars, Were taught by a Star to adore You, The Sun of Righteousness, And to know You, the Orient from on High. O Lord, glory to You!

Kontakion: Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One! Angels with shepherds glorify Him! The wise men journey with a star! Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child!

From The Canon for the Nativity of our Lord God & Savior Jesus Christ:

Ode 1: Christ is born; glorify Him! Christ comes from heaven; come to welcome Him! Christ is on earth; lift up your hearts! Sing to the Lord, O earth! Be exalted & sing with hearty gladness, O ye people, sing His praise for He is glorified!

Man was made in the image of God, but he sinned, & lost immortality. He fell from the divine & better life, enslaved completely by corruption. Now the wise Creator fashions him again, for He has been glorified!

The Creator shaped man with His own hands, but when He saw us perishing eternally, He bowed the heavens & came down to earth, & clothed Himself completely in our nature, truly incarnate from a pure & holy Virgin, for He has been glorified!

Wisdom, & Word, & Power, Christ our God is the Father’s Son, His Radiance. He was made man, a mystery concealed from every spirit above or on the earth. He has won us for Himself, for He has been glorified!

Ode 3: To the Son, Who was begotten by the Father without change, before all the ages & in the latter days was incarnate without seed of the Virgin. To Christ our God, we cry aloud: “Thou hast exalted our estate. Holy art Thou, O Lord!”

Adam was made from dust, yet he shared God’s life-giving breath. He was deceived by woman & fell, but from the dead, he saw Christ born of woman. He shouted, “For my sake Thou hast become like me. Holy art Thou, O Lord!”

Thou hast assumed a body of lowly clay, O Christ. By sharing our humble flesh, Thou hast made our race partakers of divinity. By becoming mortal man yet remaining God, Thou hast raised us from death to life. Holy art Thou, O Lord!

Make merry, O Bethlehem! Thou art the King of Judah’s princes. Christ, the Shepherd of Israel, who rides on the shoulders of the cherubim, has come forth from thee for all to see. He has raised us from death to life, & reigns over all.

Heaven brought the first fruits of the Gentiles as a gift for Thee: A star summoned the wise men to the babe in the manger. They were amazed to see neither throne nor scepter, but only abject poverty. What is more humble than a cave? What is more lowly than swaddling clothes? Yet the riches of Thy divinity shone through all these. O Lord, glory to Thee!

Let the heavens rejoice & let the earth be glad! The Lamb of God has been born on earth, Granting redemption to the world. The Word, Who rests in the bosom of the Father, Has come forth without seed from the Virgin. The wise men were struck with amazement, Seeing Him born as an infant in Bethlehem. Let all creation glorify Him!

Ode 4: Sprouted as a rod of Jesse’ root, a flower that blossomed from his stem, O Christ, Thou didst come forth from the Virgin. From that well-shaded mountain overshadowed & from her who knew no man, Thou wast made flesh. And yet Thou art not formed from matter. Glory to Thy power, O Lord!

Thou art the Expectation of the nations, O Christ, foretold by Jacob in days of old. Thou have sprung from Judah’s tribe, to plunder the might of Damascus & the spoils of Samaria, replacing error with faith acceptable to God. Glory to Thy power, O Lord!

Thou hast filled the star-gazers with joy, O Lord. They knew the hidden meaning of the prophet Balaam’s words. Thou hast made the star of Jacob to rise. As the first-fruits of the Gentiles it led them unto Thee. Thou didst openly receive their precious gifts. Glory to Thy power, O Lord!

Thou hast descended into the Virgin’s womb, O Christ, like rain on the fleece & as raindrops watering the earth. All earth’s rulers fall down before Thee: Ethiopia & the islands of Arabia, the kings of Tarshish, of Sheba, & the Medes. Glory to Thy power, O Lord!

Ode 5: O Father of Mercies, as God of peace, unto us hast Thou sent forth the Angel of great counsel Who brings His peace. Therefore watching through the night we are guided by the light of the knowledge of God, therefore, we glorify Thee, O Lover of Man!

Thou wast registered as Caesar’s subject, O Christ, in obedience to his decree. We were slaves of sin, & subject to the hateful enemy; by Thy poverty Thou hast set us free! Thou wast united to our nature in every way. Though we were formed from dust, by this communion we are made divine!

Behold, the Virgin, as foretold of old, has conceived & given birth to God made man. She remains a virgin still. Through her we are reconciled to God. Let us sinners faithfully sing her praise: she is truly Theotokos.

Ode 6: Jonah was cast forth as he was received, from the beast of the sea, like an infant from the womb. And the Word, though He came to dwell in the Virgin & taking flesh, yet in passing through He safely kept her undefiled. For Himself not being subject to decay, he preserved His mother free from harm.

Christ our God has come in the flesh. The Father begot Him from the womb before the morning star. He rules the heavenly hosts, yet now He lies in a manger of dumb beasts. He Who looses the tangled knots of sin now is wrapped in swaddling clothes. A Son is born & given to the faithful, a newborn child of Adam’s race, yet He is Father & Ruler of the world to come. He is called the Angel of Great Counsel. He is the Mighty God; He rules all creation by His might.

Bethlehem has opened Eden: come let us see! We have found joy in a secret place: come, let us seize Paradise hidden in the cave! There the unwatered Root has appeared, blossoming with forgiveness. There is found the undug Well, from which David longed to drink of old. There the Virgin has borne a child, quenching Adam’s & David’s thirst. Let us hurry to this place, where the Eternal God was born as a little child!

Ode 7: The children brought up in godliness despising the impious decree were not in fear of the threat of fire, but in the midst of the flame, they sang: “O blessed art Thou, O God of our fathers!”

The shepherds abiding in the fields were terrified by a dazzling sight. Around them shone the glory of the Lord. An angel shouted unto them, “Sing praises. The Messiah is born!” Blessed art thou, O God of our fathers!

After the angel spoke, the hosts of heaven suddenly cried out: “Glory to God in the highest. Peace on earth, good will to men. Christ has shone forth.” Blessed art Thou, O God of our fathers!

“What news is this?” asked the shepherds. “Has God’s Messiah truly come? Let us go to Bethlehem.” They saw Thee there, & worshipped Thee. With Thy mother, they sang: “Blessed art Thou, O God of our fathers!”

Ode 8: When that furnace dripped with dew it showed the image of the wonder-transcending nature, for the flame, it burned not the children it had received, just as the Fire of Godhead burned not the Virgin’s womb where it descended. Therefore, let us lift our voices in songs of praise: “Let all creation bless the Lord & exalt Him throughout all ages!”

The daughter of Babylon drove David’s children from Zion with sword & spear. Now she sends her sons, the wise men, bearing gifts, to worship in David’s city, where God has come to dwell. So let us raise the song: “Let all creation bless the Lord, & exalt Him throughout all ages!”

Grief had silenced the harps. Zion’s children would not sing in a foreign land. But now Christ has shone forth in Bethlehem destroying the din of Babylon’s idolatries. So let us raise the song: “Let all creation bless the Lord, & exalt Him throughout all ages!”

Babylon plundered Zion, & captured all her royal wealth. But now, with a guiding star, Christ lures her treasure-laden wise men back to Zion. So let us raise the song: “Let all creation bless the Lord, & exalt Him throughout all ages! We praise, bless & worship the Lord, singing & exalting Him throughout all ages.

Ode 9: Magnify, O my soul, she who is greater in honor & more glorious than the host above!

A mystery! Strange & wonderful I see! Heaven is a cave on earth! The cherubic throne is the Virgin! The God Whom cannot be contained is placed in the manger, a noble place, O Christ our God. Him do we praise & magnify!

Magnify, O my soul, God born in the flesh, from the virgin.

The wise men saw a new, uncharted star, following an unexpected course. Its brightness surpassed every star in heaven. It foretold the Messiah’s birth: Christ, the King, born on earth in Bethlehem, for our salvation.

Magnify O my soul, The King born in the cave!

The wise men saw a new, uncharted star, following an unexpected course. Its brightness surpassed every star in heaven. It foretold the Messiah’s birth: Christ, the King, born on earth in Bethlehem, for our salvation.

Magnify, O my soul, God, worshipped by the wise men!

The wise men saw a new, uncharted star, following an unexpected course. Its brightness surpassed every star in heaven. It foretold the Messiah’s birth: Christ, the King, born on earth in Bethlehem, for our salvation.

Magnify, O my soul, God worshipped by the wise men!

“Where is the newborn Infant-King? We have seen His star,” the wise men said. “We have come to worship Him.” Godless Herod trembled with fury. In his raging madness he plotted to kill Christ.

Magnify, O my soul, the Lord Who revealed Himself to the wise men by a star!

“Where is the newborn Infant-King? We have seen His star,” the wise men said. “We have come to worship Him.” Godless Herod trembled with fury. In his raging madness he plotted to kill Christ.

Magnify, O my soul, the pure virgin who gave birth to Christ the King!

Herod inquired where the star appeared which had led the wise men to Bethlehem, but after they worshipped Christ with gifts, that same star led them back to their own land, confounding their pursuer, that godless murderer of children.

Wise men & shepherds came to worship Christ, born in the City of Bethlehem.

Herod inquired where the star appeared which had led the wise men to Bethlehem, but after they worshipped Christ with gifts, that same star led them back to their own land, confounding their pursuer, that godless murderer of children.

Magnify, O my soul, she who is greater in honor & more glorious than the host above!

Our Savior, the dayspring from the East, has visited us from on high, & we, who were in darkness & shadow, have found the truth, for the Lord is born of the Virgin!

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