“Good News For All The People”—Daily Reflections for Advent 2016
THE SIXTH DAY OF ADVENT, December 2nd
An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him ‘Emmanuel’ which means, ‘God is with us.’”
John Niles was a folklorist musician who, during the Great Depression, scoured Appalachia for folk music. It was in the little town of Murphy, North Carolina, that Niles happened upon a band of ragged, itinerant evangelists. Preacher Morgan, the group’s leader, had rigged a preaching platform on the back of his rickety car. But just before the preacher mounted the platform to preach, his young daughter, Annie, climbed atop the platform to sing. John Niles was charmed by the melody and words coming from Annie: “I wonder as I wander out under the sky/How Jesus, the Savior did come for to die/For poor on’ry people like you and like I.”
Mr. Niles quickly gave Annie some quarters and transcribed her song, later expanding it into the lines we sing at Christmas:
I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.
Who would not wonder at the eternal Son of God becoming the Son of Man to take away sin! He doesn’t come just to give us words from heaven or to give us instructions from God. He comes to join Himself to us, to be human for us, in our place and on our behalf, taking away our sin.
Early Christians and theologians wondered at this grand mystery of God making Himself to be one with “on’ry people like you and like I”. They grappled with words to articulate what God had done, calling it the hypostatic union. Taken from the Greek word hypostasis, meaning “essence” or “fundamental reality”, the hypostatic union is the union of the divine nature and human nature in Christ Jesus. There is no mistaking that the Baby lying in a manger is fully God and fully human. He is not half God and half man, but 100 percent God and 100 percent flesh-and-blood human. He has to be in order to be our Savior! Only as God could He save us from the guilt and power of sin, and only as human could He sacrifice Himself in our place. We need a Savior on our side who is both God and human. “A Savior not quite God is a bridge broken at the farther end.” (Robert Anderson, The Lord from Heaven, quoting Handley Moule)
Here is good news about an accomplished fact. Here is good news of a new reality. Jesus says: “I am coming to become what you are, because I want you to share in what I am. You get to be sons and daughters with me and my Father.” The great Athanasius put it like this: “For that was the very purpose and end of our Lord’s incarnation, that He should join what is man by nature to Him who is by nature God.” (Athanasius, St. Athanasius: Selected Works and Letters, “Against the Arians”)
Yes, I do wonder at the good news as I wander!
- How would you paraphrase the words of Athanasius: “For that was the very purpose and end of our Lord’s incarnation, that He should join what is man by nature to Him who is by nature God”?
- What causes you “wonder” about the Christmas story?