By Dr. Paul Chilcote
What angel can the grace explain!
The very God is very man,
By love paternal given!
Begins the uncreated word,
Born is the everlasting Lord,
Who made both earth and heaven!
Behold him high above all height,
Him, God of God, and Light of Light
In a mean earthly shrine;
Jehovah’s glory dwelt with men,
The Person in our flesh is seen,
The character divine!
Not with these eyes of flesh and blood;
Yet lo, we still behold the God
Replete with truth and grace:
The truth of holiness we see,
The truth of full felicity
In our Redeemer’s face.
Transformed by the ecstatic sight,
Our souls o’erflow with pure delight,
And every moment own
The Lord our whole perfection is,
The Lord is our immortal bliss,
And Christ and heaven are one.
In this sacred poem based upon the prologue to John’s Gospel, Charles Wesley explores the mystery of the birth of Jesus—the Incarnation. Christmas provides the perfect opportunity to ponder the immensity of God’s love and the incomprehensible act of God made human in the person of Jesus Christ. This gift truly inspires our awe.
The lines, “Begins the uncreated word” and “Born is the everlasting Lord,” explore what D. M. Baillie once described as the paradox of grace, something not even angels can explain. The God who created all that exists takes on flesh and enters human history. The uncreated Word, one with the Creator before time began, begins to be. He who is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, from everlasting to everlasting, comes into this world, at a particular time, in a particular place, to a particular human family. The infinite, almighty God becomes a finite human creature.
The paradoxes continue. He is “high above all height,” yet he dwells in the lowly form of a fleshly body just like yours and mine. The second person of the Trinity, who is Light and Truth—“immortal, invisible, God only wise”—becomes transparent in the son of a Galilean carpenter. We see the character of God in the face of this child.
What shines through? We behold the truth of holiness and the truth of blessedness. We see a human life as God truly intends it to be lived. The vision transforms us. Once we have seen God in the face of Jesus we can never be the same again. The gift fills our souls as genuine blessedness overflows and takes possession of our hearts.
We wonder in the love and know that this Jesus is our all in all: the goal of our living, the fullest possible happiness we seek, the reason we exist.
Prayer: Word of God, made flesh in Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth: we can never comprehend the mystery of your Incarnation—the way in which you entered human history as a helpless baby just like us—but we behold your glory and wonder in your love. Amen.
Paul W. Chilcote, PhD is Academic Dean; Professor of Historical Theology and Wesleyan Studies at Ashland Theological Seminary. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org