“Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see. Hail the incarnate deity.”
Don’t breeze over those words – “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see. Hail the incarnate deity.” You will never understand Christianity without getting hold of the message of the ‘incarnation’.
It leads us to the most important question anybody can ever ask, “Who is Jesus?”
The central fact of the Christian faith is not a philosophy; it is a person. To take that person out of Christianity is a little bit like taking the numbers out of math. It’s like taking doctors out of medicine, it’s like thinking of daylight without the sun. Take the incarnation away from Christianity and the whole thing unravels until there’s nothing left bothering about.
Charles Wesley’s famous hymn first published for Christmas Day in 1739 – “Hark the Herald Angel Sing” is a Christmas institution. It is sung at most carol services around our county. Verse two makes a staggering claim about Jesus, “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see. Hail the incarnate deity.” This is the Jesus of the gospels, our Lord and our God who came among us – the incarnate deity. Charles Wesley is spot-on, everything we are and believe as Christians depends on this one thing, we see and know and meet Almighty God in Jesus Christ who is fully God and fully human according to the New Testament, the doctrine that Christian people have for millennia called the ‘incarnation’.
The apostle John wrote in His Gospel, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John chapter 1. We American Christians know these verses so well, we know these great cadences, we love them. But let us not allow our familiarity with the Christmas gospel narrative blind us to the shock and the incomprehensibility of how these verses in John’s gospel sounded to first century disciples of Jesus Christ in the land of Israel. John’s Christmas gospel doesn’t mention Mary or Joseph, it doesn’t mention the inn, or the shepherds, or the stable. In John’s gospel the story is behind the scenes, the story that you would not have seen if you had been at the inn or on the Bethlehem hillside and heard the angels.
This is the story you would not know if you had merely stood in the manger and looked at the baby. This is something incredibly profound and powerful and unique in the whole of the New Testament. It is the reality of Christmas not seen historically, but theologically. Theology is never a word that we should be afraid of, it simply means you are studying and considering the things of God. As John answers the question, “Who is this child born in Bethlehem?” John is stretching our minds almost to breaking point and takes us to the very mind of Almighty God. He takes us into eternity. If you want to grasp who Jesus is, says John, you’ve got to go back to the beginning.
John’s gospel chapter 1 reveals to us that Jesus is:
The Eternal One (vs 1-4)
The Revealed One (vs 4-5)
The Promised One (vs 6-8)
The Rejected One (vs 10)
The Saving One (vs 12-13)
The Glorious One (vs 14)
It all leads to this astonishing claim of verse 14, The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
My prayer is that you will more fully know the ‘incarnate deity’, Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, born to die on the cross, that we might be brought to God through Him who dwells among us.
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and as we are sorely hindered by our sins from running the race that is set before us, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.
God bless you.
The Rt. Rev. Julian Dobbs, bishop with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, has traveled to the Middle East, meeting with Christians facing horrendous persecution. With a focus on the plight of Christians in Syria, Bishop Dobbs shares with Jerry Newcombe on the persecution of our brothers and sisters in Christ in places like Aleppo. www.barnabasaid.org