The Babe of Bethlehem


Wonderful Bethlehem! Where the wonder of all wonders, the mys­tery of all mysteries, the Incarna­tion of the Eternal Logos, is ac­complished in the way of the sign of all signs, the miraculous Virgin Birth!

Blessed Bethlehem! Small to be numbered among the thousands of Judah, yet to us the greatest of them all! For there, in that tiny Bethlehem, in that lowly manger, in that babe, so humbly wrapped in swaddling clothes, there lies our salvation. There the wondrous grace and immeasurable love of an infinite God has broken through into a world of sin and guilt to give life out of death, light in the midst of darkness, hope where there was naught but blank de­spair, beauty for ashes, heaven for hell.

Well may the innumerable host fill the star-studded heavens with their joyous refrain, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!”

Come then, let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, this mys­tery of godliness, the Incarnation of the Living God, and let us ask: Who is this wondrous Babe, this Infant. Whom shepherds and wise men and a throng no man can number from all nations and tribes and kindreds worship as their Re­deemer? What is that thing that came to pass that first Christmas night, so blessed to the heart of God’s Church?

The wise of the world, void of the grace of God, go to Bethlehem, glance into the manger, at the child so like unto all other children, and opine: nothing out of the ordinary has come to pass. A child was born to Joseph and Mary, no more. True, he was destined to be illus­trious above all other men. He was endowed with special gifts with a view to a very special task among men. Even so, he was mere man, no more.

Others, unbelievers too, have gone to Bethlehem, studied the child, and concluded: that child is neither God nor man. He is a sort of intermediate creature, made in eternity by God and come into the world in the form, the appearance of the human nature.

The church of God has confessed from the moment “this thing came to pass”: it is the mystery of god­liness! The promised Redeemer! That Babe is not a mere infant among infants. He is God and man. Even so, however, also in the church of Christ perfect clarity has not always prevailed on the doctrine involved. There were those, on the one hand, who separ­ated the two natures of the Media­tor to that extent, that all unity was lost sight of. Others failed to maintain the eternal distinction be­tween the divinity and humanity of “the Babe of Bethlehem” and fused the two natures into one in such a manner that all distinction was lost.

After centuries of controversy and intense study of the Scrip­tures, however, the church gradu­ally came to greater clarity of con­ception and purity of confession, so that we are now able to con­fess, briefly but pertinently: “That God’s eternal Son, Who is and continueth true and eternal God, took upon Him the very nature of man, of the flesh and blood of the Vir­gin Mary, by the operation of the Holy Ghost; that He might also be the true seed of David, like unto His brethren in all things, sin ex­cepted.” Catechism, Lord’s Day 1-1. (See also articles 18 and 19 of our Belgic Confession).

That Babe, therefore, is God’s eternal Son, the second Person of the Adorable Trinity. That Son is the one and only person involved in the miracle of the Incarnation. “The Word became flesh.” “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoso­ever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Neither does the Son become a human person when he enters into the flesh. Whenever the Mediator says “I”, the eternally begotten of the Father, no human person, speaks.

That Babe, personally the Son of God, is, according to the divine nature, true and eternal God. Thus the Bable of Bethlehem is God for­ever. Coessential with the Father

and the Holy Spirit, the Son lives eternally the full divine life in the full essence. His are all the divine names and attributes. He is and forever remains true, righteous, holy, omnipotent, omniscient, im­mutable God. This is not changed by the Incarnation. Wherefore it is written concerning that same Babe: “Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever.” Romans 9 :5.

That Babe, however, is God’s eternal Son, Who is and forever re­mains true and eternal God, in the nature of man. The Son became God and man, even so, that while He, as God, lives the full divine life eternally, He, as man, lives the full human life in a perfectly human way. That is the incomprehensible but infinitely glorious and comfort­ing miracle of the Incarnation of the Word. That is “the thing which is come to pass”.

Concerning this union of the divine and the human nature in the one person of the Son of God, the Church of Christ, as early as the year 451, has emphasized, that they are inconfusedly, un  changeably, indivisibly and inseparably united.

Never, therefore, may these two natures of the Mediator be con­fused, that is, fused into one. That has been and is being done by all those, who conceive of the Christ as a sort of God-man, the anthropos, a being, who is neither God nor man, but a mixture of the two. Of course, then all is lost. Then God does not remain God. Then Crea­tor and creature are fused into one and you have fallen into pure Pan­theism. With an eye to this heresy we confess, that the two nature are united “inconfusedly”. Never do they become one. The unity must not be sought in the natures, but in the one person who lives in and through both natures, in the one as God, in the other as man.

By the same token neither the divine nor the human nature may be presented as having undergone any essential change in the Incar­nation. True, the Son of God came in the form of a servant, in the likeness of sinful flesh, in which He humbled Himself even unto death. Even so, the Godhead did not change. True, too, the human nature was endowed with special gifts by virtue of its miraculous union with the divine. In fact, by virtue of the latter the former was exalted to the highest heavens. Even so, the human nature remain­ed wholly human, in Bethlehem and forever more.

The two natures of Christ, so the Church continues to confess, are “indivisibly” united. There was nothing lacking in either nature. The complete human nature united with the complete divine nature, and that in the single person of the Son of God.

Finally, the divinity and human­ity of the Mediator were “insepar­ably” united. Both extremes, there­fore, that of confusion as well as separation of the two nature, stand condemned. The unity, however, must never be sought in the natures as such, but only in the one Person, Who lives in and through the two natures. The latter, eternally dis­tinct, are one only by virtue of the fact that there is one subject, one “I”, Who according to the Godhead knows, wills, speaks and lives as infinite God, while the same sub­ject, according to the human na­ture knows, wills, speaks and lives as finite, dependent man.

Truly, the mystery of godliness is great! God manifest in the flesh!

How could this thing come to pass? That wonderful Babe must have been born in a wonderful way! And so, He was!

He was “conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary!” Thus, that Christ-child, so like and yet so unlike all other children, was born in a way, so like and yet so unlike the birth of any other child.

He was born of Main. How sim­ple, how perfectly natural, how similar to the birth of any child! Jesus’ mother was simply one of the women of our human race, like unto any other covenant woman. And yet, how significant are these words: “Born of. . . .Mary.”

Thus we know, that the Son of God became very, that is, real man. Born as all children are born, out of one of the women of our race, He assumed our flesh and blood. He was not a foreigner to our race, nor was the blood He shed on Cal­vary strange blood. He was one of us.

Thus we know, that God’s Son assumed the flesh and blood of the children. He had to be of the seed of Abraham, out of the house of David, like unto his brethren. Born of Mary He became all this. And this is pertinent. Here, if ever, we must emphasize the covenant line. Israel’s Redeemer must take hold of the human nature in the wry core of the covenant of God. He must come as the Elect of all the elect, and hence out of and in their very midst. He must be born of the elect kernel, of which He is the root, as the Son of David, the Head of the covenant of Jehovah.

Out of Mary He assumed the weakened human nature. Christ took our flesh and blood, not as Adam bore it before he fell into sin, but as Mary herself bore it. lie assumed the corruptible, mor­tal, weak, earthly, natural human nature. Truly, He came in the likeness of sinful flesh. Rom. 8:3. Mind you, He did not come in the likeness of flesh, nor did He come in the sinful flesh. In either case, we would have no Redeemer. He came in the likeness of sinful flesh, and thus became like unto us in all things.

Sin excepted! He knew no guilt, because He was not a human per­son and guilt is reckoned to the person. Personally He was not a member of the human race, in­cluded as all men are in Adam, but He was and forever is a member of the Holy Trinity. And He was without the stain of sin, because He was conceived by the Holy Ghost and preserved from all pollution in Mary’s womb.

“Born of the Virgin Mary!” Oh, mystery of mysteries!

How the modern, conceited world opposes this miraculous conception and birth of the Savior we know. Presuming to be a scientist, it scoffs and says: it is scientifically impossible that a child should be conceived without the will of man. Setting itself up as an exegete of the Word of God, it posits: the word “virgin” in Scripture also refers to a young married woman. It has this connotation in the pas­sage from Isaiah, “A virgin shall conceive and bear a son”. Is. 7:14. And turning theologian the world postulates: it is not necessary that Jesus be born without the will of man; the Son could have assumed humanity of both Joseph and Mary.

To the world as scientist we re­ply: why should it not be possible for a child to be conceived without the will of man? In the final analysis, all children are conceived, not by the work of man, but by the almighty will of God, also there where the will of man is God’s means. Why, then, can God, Who is God alone, not do without the instrumentality of the will of mor­tal man if such be His desire? Is the Creator of heaven and earth bound by the creature?

To the world as exegete we say: it is granted that the word “virgin” in Scripture also refers to a young married woman. But, can that be the meaning in the case of Mary? If it is, Jesus was a bastard, for this much is certain: if Jesus had an earthly Father, it was another than Joseph. Why, else, was Jo­seph, “being a just man, minded to put her away”? Matt. 1:19. Either, Jesus was born of a virgin or He was born of a horrible fornication. Why, then, does this same world continue to glorify a bastard like Jesus of Nazareth and adore a har­lot like Mary?

To the world as theologian we say: it was necessary that Jesus be born without the will of man. This necessity follows from the very fact that it took place in this manner. It was necessary in order that all the world. and the church in particular, might know that the Babe of Bethlehem was indeed the promised Messiah. It was neces­sary. because that which is of the flesh is flesh, and sinful man could never have the right to beget any­thing that is not sinful flesh; be­cause mere man could never beget a nature fit to be the home of the eternal Son of God: and because only the eternal Son Himself can prepare His own nature in the womb of the virgin Mary.

To the world, in whatever capaci­ty, we say: you refuse to accept this miracle of the Virgin Birth only because you refuse to accept the miracle of the incarnation it­self. For one who believes the latter, the former should be and is easy to believe. In fact, the more deeply conscious we are of the truth of the Incarnation itself, the more deeply we feel that it is as in­evitable as proper that such a mir­acle should involve a corresponding miracle in the physical aspect of the birth. With the late Professor B. Warfield we say. “To Christian­ity it would have been unnatural if the birth of the Savior had been natural.”

Hence, the confession of the church of all ages stands: “Con­ceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.” Thus, the Holy Spirit, not the will of man, is the efficient cause of the conception. And Mary became pregnant by a direct work of God Himself, Who through the Spirit prepared hu­manity in the most blessed among women and with that divinely con­ceived humanity united the Per­son of the Son of God. A profound mystery, you say? Of course! Is not all conception an unfathomable mystery? Science, with all its wis­dom, is still unable to unveil the mystery of the origin of a child. How then shall the manner of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word be anything else than a wholly unfathomable mystery.

Wonderful thing that is come to pass! Mystery of godliness!

Thus, and only thus can that Babe of Bethlehem, later the Suf­ferer of Calvary, and now the Re­surrected and Glorified Lord, be our Head and Redeemer, our merci­ful High Priest, Who can prepare eternal salvation for us and us for eternal salvation.

Only in this way that Babe is the Lamb of God, without spot and blemish, in Whom is our reconcilia­tion with the living God. He bears our nature, so that when He suf­fers and dies, we suffer and die. And behind that nature our nature, is always the power of the divine to sustain and strengthen to the very end, to glorify Him and give divine eminence to all His work as our Savior.

Thus, and only thus, as the Word become flesh, our Mediator can ap­ply that reconciliation and perfect redemption and exalt that human nature, our nature, you and me, to the glory God has ordained for us in the Beloved. He is Imman­uel, the Lord of heaven, the Won­der of the grace of God! In Him the divine and the human, God and man, are united forever in blessed covenant fellowship!

Blessed Bethlehem!

There is our peace and the par­don of all our sins!

There was centrally realized the word of the Lord Jesus Himself: “I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one.”