Rejoice in the Mystery

John 1

Halfway through Advent comes the Sunday with the different colored candle. Gaudete Sunday is named for the first word in the Latin translation of Philippians 4:4. The word is Rejoice!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7

The most obvious text to consider today from the McCheyne Reading Plan is John 1. If Philippians 4 tells us that we ought to rejoice, then John 1 tells us why we ought to rejoice:
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Rejoice because there was an incarnation. God became man. The immortal took on mortal flesh. It is a mystery as to how exactly it took place, but that it took place is what Christians assert.

It is a mystery how Christ could have two natures (the divine and human) inseparably joined together in one person without conversion, composition, or confusion. Christians don’t blindly assert this mystery of the incarnation. They have studied it and witnessed to it for centuries, but what does the opening sentence of this paragraph (adapted from the Westminster Confession of Faith) actually mean?

First, the two natures are without conversion. One doesn’t not “convert” into the other in the incarnation. The human nature does not become divine, nor does the divine nature become human.

Second, the two natures are without composition. In other words, a third new thing is not created in the incarnation. Human nature plus divine nature does not equal a tertium quid (a third thing out of the two).

Finally, the two natures are without confusion. Jesus isn’t sometimes human and sometimes divine. He is one person, not two half people.

The mystery of the incarnation is that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We can barely imagine it except that it is good news. We rejoice that Jesus is fully human, with all the same human traits we possess except sin.

We rejoice that Jesus is fully divine. God has come to live life on human terms, the terms that he set up in creation. He has not come to live life by a different set of rules than we have. Jesus was hungry, tired, poor, and dependent.

We rejoice that Jesus isn’t a “third thing” who came to earth with no capacity for compassion. Jesus is the human who came not just to live by example, but even to die the death we should have died. He was punished for our sins. Because he was divine and because he was innocent, death could not hold him down.

We rejoice that God has humbled himself to be with us—to be with us as we are. How do I let this affect me day to day?

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