HOW SILENTLY THE WONDROUS GIFT IS GIVEN
“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,” (Luke 1:31–32, ESV)
Once again, the blazing glory of God touches the earth. This time, the event horizon is not a bush, but a baby. The heaven of heavens cannot contain Him, but He is wrapped up in the tender womb of a teenage girl. A virgin, she has not yet known a man, but she is carrying the maker of all men.
With three clipped statements, Gabriel describes her remarkable child: His deity takes center stage. He is the Son of the Most High, but He is also the Son of David. A man whose humanity is as real and as full as His deity. The boy is more than a man, and yet not less of a man than you or I.
Before ever mentioning our Lord’s Eternal Father, Gabriel addresses his earthly mother. Five times, the angel proclaims Mary’s biological involvement in the incarnation of God, her Son. “You will conceive in the womb, and you will bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus….The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you!” Her womb is no test tube, she is no surrogate, Mary’s substance is not bypassed. When He becomes the Lamb of God, the Seed of the Woman will bleed with His mother’s blood.
Furthermore, she is to call His Name Jesus. In time, along with the rest of creation, she will surround this simple mannish name with titles fully loaded with the weight of God. But for now, at least, this little boy is to have a little boys name. He is Mary’s ‘wee’ bundle, wriggling with unabridged, unabbreviated childishness.
The Son’s self-emptying has begun. He emptied Himself not by losing a drop of His Divine fullness, but by adding the likeness of our sinful flesh, the rudeness of a manger’s cushion, the lowness of a servant’s station, and the cursedness of the wicked damned. Without ceasing to be what He always was, He became something He had never been before.
For three long decades, His greater nature lies eclipsed by humiliation. Who would have guessed His true identity? At Joseph’s feet, on the dusty floor of the carpenter’s shop, sits Jesus, the toddler. Watch him fumble clumsily with blocks of wood. A portent of dark days ahead, a sharp splinter pierces His thumb, He begins to cry - the One who built the starry skies! The angels gaze in wonder, and so should we. In another few years, we see him out playing with His friends in the fields around Nazareth. Hear His mother call him home for dinner, "Jesus!". See Him run toward her dirty with soil, the pure mischief of a day outdoors. His neighbors must have thought He was just another ordinary boy. It had to be this way: To bear our sins, He must share our nature. This He does without embarrassment (Heb. 2:11).
Second, this lad is not only Mary’s child, God Most High is His Father. A herniation of heavenly glory has just burst brightly into this world’s fallen darkness. He upholds the universe with the Word of His power, but He lies helplessly in His mother's arms. First He gave life to her, now Mary gives life to Him, nourishing and sustaining his humanity with her lifeblood. The mystery is tremendous. She stoops before His bestial bassinette to worship “God her Savior (Lk.1:47)” And yet, soon this God will suck at her breast, and she will stoop to change His diaper!
It was here in the beginning (not in Gethsemane) that Christ began his journey down into the shameful abyss. The moment He took our nature, He became our substitute, conceived over the gaping mouth of hell. The dark pit of our sinful destiny had its hold on Him, our representative. Inexorably, its gravitational pull has already begun to pull Him down towards Golgotha. His whole life will be one going down after another until there will be no more down left to go (Eph. 4:9). There in the darkness, immolated and utterly forsaken, the Father will give His Son what sin deserves. Not sin in the abstract, mind you, but your sins and mine imputed to His account. There, at the bottom, Jesus will “take our damnation lovingly.”
Third, God is not this boy’s only Father. He might enter Mary’s womb without a genetic connection to an earthly man, but the genealogical link is there for all to see. The Savior stands at the end of a glorious but gloomy family tree. “He will be given the throne of His father, David. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever.” Unlike the kings gone before, however, His eternal tenure on David's Throne shall never be polluted by filth, impeached by faithlessness, terminated by death, or blighted by failure. This king is here to stay. He comes to cleanse the filthy, to strengthen the weak, to heal the lame, to love the hateful, to rule the unruly, to subdue the defiant, to straighten the twisted, and to revive the dead. His subjects will never again suffer the ignominy of exile. He will be banished for us, but we will never be cast off by Him. “He will make known to us the path of life, in his presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand there are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16).” Though He will die, His death will make us more alive than we have ever been before. And He shall live on in the power of an endless life.
Understandably, Mary balks at all this. With faith reaching desperately for understanding, she ponders, “How can this be since I am a virgin?” Unlike John's father, Zechariah, Mary does not doubt the truth of Gabriel’s Word, simply the manner of its fulfillment. As a virgin, her barren womb has no earthly hope of life. What is she to do to bring this word to pass? A glorious promise rewards her honest inquiry: Echoing the redemption this child will one day bring, there is nothing for her to do. All by Himself, God takes action to end the hopeless, helpless barrenness of her humanity.
And so, in the darkness of Mary’s womb, the New Creation begins....
How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
Fear not, little flock, the light has come; the darkness cannot win. May this Christmas season fill all your hearts and all your homes with the Joy of the Lord Jesus Christ.