“For He was made man that we might be made God; and He manifested Himself by a body that we might receive the idea of the unseen Father; and He endured the insolence of men that we might inherit immortality.”—St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation
“Have this mind among yourselves,” avowed Saint Paul, “which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians, 2:5–7). Anglican C.S. Lewis placed enormous weight on the significance of Christ’s Incarnation and wrote about it on a number of occasions. In and through the miraculous incarnation, the divine nature of the Son was perfectly united with human nature in one divine Person. This person, Jesus Christ, was both “truly God and truly man.” In Mere Christianity, Lewis observed: “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.“1 Accordingly “[t]he central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation.” In the book Miracles, Lewis further explained:
They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. Just as every natural event is the manifestation at a particular place and moment of Nature’s total character, so every particular Christian miracle manifests at a particular place and moment the character and significance of the Incarnation. There is no question in Christianity of arbitrary interferences just scattered about. It relates not a series of disconnected raids on Nature but the various steps of a strategically coherent invasion—an invasion which intends complete conquest and “occupation.” The fitness, and therefore credibility, of the particular miracles depends on their relation to the Grand Miracle; all discussion of them in isolation from it is futile…
In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity. . . But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him. . . .2
J.I. Packer, a protégé and admirer of Lewis, states that “the supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us” lies in “the Christmas message of incarnation.” He explained: One of Lewis’s admirers, theologian J.I. Packer, says that “the supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us” lies in “the Christmas message of incarnation.” He explained:
The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man—that the second person of the Godhead became the “second man” …, determining human destiny,… and that He took humanity without loss of deity…3
C.S. Lewis said of the miracle of the Incarnation:
“Something really new did happen at Bethlehem: not an interpretation but an event. God became Man. On the other hand there must be a sense in which God, being outside time, is changeless and nothing ever ‘happens’ to Him. I think I should reply that the event at Bethlehem was a novelty, a change to the maximum extent to which any event is a novelty or change: but that all time and all events in it, if we could see them all at once and fully understand them, are a definition or diagram of what God eternally is. But that is quite different from saying that the incarnation was simply an interpretation, or a change in our knowledge. When Pythagoras discovered that the square on the hypotenuse was equal to the sum of the squares on the other sides he was discovering what had been just as true the day before though no one knew it. But in 50 B.C. the proposition ‘God is Man’ would not have been true in the same sense in which it was true in 10 A.D. because though the union of God and Man in Christ is a timeless fact, in 50 B.C. we hadn’t yet got to that bit of time which defines it.”4
As we worship the triune God, and reflect upon the miracle of the Incarnation this Christmas season, it is a most momentous occasion to reflect upon the one who descended from Heaven to become one of us, for our salvation, and for His eternal glory. As Paul said, “”Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever” (1 Timothy 1:15-17). Ligonier Ministries describes the miraculous consequence of the Incarnation and the world it made possible:
“Paul gives us some of the most profound reflections on the incarnation in the entire New Testament. Philippians 2:5–11 tells us that the Son of God did not consider His equality with God as something to be used solely for His own advantage at the expense of others; instead, He voluntarily condescended and took the form of a servant and became “obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross” (v. 8). In this condescension, our Savior did not surrender any divine attributes such as omniscience or omnipotence, though He did veil His glory. Without giving up His glory, He chose not to fully manifest it to all who saw Him as He walked the earth. But this veiling was only temporary. On account of His work, God exalted the God-man Christ Jesus, rewarding Him for His obedience and revealing Him as the source of eternal salvation for all who believe (vv. 9–11).”
1 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Touchstone, 1996), p. 155.
2 C.S. Lewis, Miracles (Touchstone, 1996), pp. 143, 147-148.
3 J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), pp. 45-46. 4 C.S. Lewis, The Letters of C. S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves