Omnipotence, Swaddled

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger” (Luke 2:7). Bernard N. Howard: Swaddling cloths are still in use today. With a few deft tucks, a pediatric nurse can swaddle a baby in seconds. It looks easy, but as overconfident new fathers soon find out, good swaddling technique takes a lot of practice. The objective is to surround the baby’s body with cloth, while leaving the head free. Doctors think this comforts the baby by recreating the sensation of being in the womb. Swaddling also restricts a baby’s startle reflex, which helps maintain unbroken sleep. Is there anything more vulnerable, more dependent, than a swaddled baby? The hospital nurse described our swaddled son as a “baby burrito.” The only things swaddled babies can do are rock a little from side to side, thump their feet a bit, and—as parents well know—cry loudly in the middle of the night.

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Why does the virginal conception of Jesus matter?

Kevin DeYoung: The accounts of Jesus’s birth in Matthew (chapter 1) and Luke (chapters 1-2) are clear and unequivocal: Jesus’s birth was not ordinary. He was not an ordinary child, and his conception did not come about in the ordinary way. His mother, Mary, was a virgin, having had no intercourse prior to conception and birth. By the Holy Spirit, Mary’s womb became the cradle of the Son’s incarnation (Matt. 1:20; Luke 1:35). Of course, the doctrine of the virgin birth (or more precisely, the virginal conception) has been ridiculed by many outside the church, and, in modern times, by not a few voices inside the church. Two arguments are usually mentioned. First, the prophecy about a virgin birth in Isaiah 7:14, it is argued, actually speaks of a young woman and not a virgin. (To be fair, some scholars make this argument about Isaiah’s prophecy and still believe in the virgin birth). Many have pointed out that the Hebrew word in Isaiah

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The Incarnation and Two Natures of Christ

By Stephen Wellum: DEFINITION Incarnation is the term that refers to the supernatural act of the triune God, whereby the eternal, divine Son, from the Father, by the agency of the Spirit, took into union with himself a complete human nature apart from sin. As a result, the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, now and forevermore exists as one person in two natures, our only Lord and Savior. SUMMARY This article will describe who Jesus is as God the Son incarnate in light of the Scriptural teaching and the Confessional orthodoxy of the Church. By developing five truths about the incarnation, starting with Jesus’ full deity as the eternal Son in relation to the Father and Spirit, and working from eternity to time, the identity of Christ and the nature of the incarnation will be described. To know Jesus rightly from Scripture, we must see who he is in relation to the doctrine of the Trinity, and the reason for the

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Is Christmas a Pagan Rip-off?

Kevin DeYoung: We’ve heard it so many times that it’s practically part of the Christmas story itself. The Romans celebrated their seven-day winter festival, Saturnalia, starting on December 17. It was a thoroughly pagan affair full of debauchery and the worship of the god Saturn. To mark the end of the winter solstice, the Roman emperor established December 25 as a feast to Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun). Wanting to make Christianity more palatable to the Romans and more popular with the people, the church co-opted these pagan festivals and put the celebration of the birth of their Savior on December 25. For whatever the Christmas holiday has become today, it started as a copycat of well-established pagan holidays. If you like Christmas, you have Saturnalia and Sol Invictus to thank. That’s the story, and everyone from liberal Christians to conservative Christians to non-Christians seem to agree that it’s true. Except that it isn’t. For starters, we should distinguish between

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Tracing the Story of Christmas

Stephen Nichols: In order to understand the story of Christmas, we have to go back. Not back just a few thousand years to the birth of Jesus, but all the way back, back to our first parents, Adam and Eve. God placed them in the lush and perfect garden of Eden. They had everything they needed. It was perfect. Then they sinned. As a consequence, God banished them. Now Adam and Eve lived under the curse. But as God pronounced the curse, thundering from heaven, He also gave them a promise. God gave Adam and Eve the promise of a Seed, a Seed who would be born of a woman. That Seed would make all that was wrong, right. He would make all that was broken, whole. This Seed would bring peace and harmony where strife and conflict raged like a storm-tossed sea. In the Old Testament, the third chapter of the very first book, Genesis, speaks of conflict and enmity. Adam

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Why Was Jesus Born of a Virgin?

Wyatt Graham: Everyone knows the story. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary. He tells her that she will have a child who will save his people and establish his kingdom. But there is a problem. As Mary asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). The angel Gabriel explains, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Instead of doubt, Mary believes. She confesses: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). She believed and did not waver.  Why did God decide that Jesus would be born in this particular way? Why did God use a virgin birth to bring Jesus into the world? There are at least three answers.  To fulfill prophecy First, the prophet Isaiah prophesied that the coming one

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10 Things You Should Know About the Incarnation

Stephen Wellum: At the heart of Christianity and the gospel is the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from the “Word becoming flesh” (John 1:14) and the incarnate Son of God living and dying in our place as our Savior, there is no salvation. Apart from the coming of the eternal Son, his taking on human nature and acting as our covenant representative, there is no hope for the world. It is appropriate at Christmas to think more deeply about the incarnation. Here are 10 things we should grasp. 1. The person or active subject of the incarnation is the eternal Son. John 1:14 is clear: “The Word became flesh.” In other words, it was the Son from eternity who became incarnate, not the divine nature. The Son, who is in eternal relation to the Father and Spirit, willingly humbled himself and chose to assume a human nature in obedience to his Father and for our salvation (Phil. 2:6–8). 2. As the eternal Son, the second

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Christmas: A Story of the Wealth and Poverty of the Son of God

Sam Storms: No biblical text so vividly portrays for us the true meaning of Christmas as does 2 Corinthians 8:9. There the apostle Paul wrote this: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). In what sense was Christ “rich” or “wealthy”? I want you to think with me about what kind of “wealth” or “riches” characterized the Son of God in eternity past, before the incarnation, before he became a fetus in the womb of Mary, before he was born on that first Christmas morning. But I also want you to consider with me the ways in which the Son of God became “poor”. When I hear Paul say that the Son of God was “rich”, the first thing that comes to mind is the incalculable “wealth” of his eternal glory. The sacrifice of

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Christmas Reminds Us That Jesus is God

Jared Wilson: What would prompt us to refer to a man as God? And even if we acknowledge that Jesus was somehow God, how did he become God? Was he born a man and later “divinized” in some way, perhaps at his baptism? Many have wrestled with these questions throughout church history, but the faithful church has always held as orthodox what the apostles profess in the creed: “We believe. . . in Jesus Christ, [God’s] only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary . . . This short phrase encapsulates the doctrine we call “the Incarnation.”  What the Incarnation means is this: Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man. He was not God manifesting in the illusion or appearance of a man. And he was not man operating under the title “God” as some vicarious ambassador or adoptee. Jesus was—simultaneously, totally, and actually—God and man. The second person of the Triune Godhead, the eternally

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The Sounding Joy: Four Reasons to Rejoice in Jesus’ Arrival

Brandon Freeman: Luke’s infancy narratives provide the most detailed description of Jesus’ birth and its surrounding events. The Gospel writer records the angelic announcements of John the Baptist’s birth to Zechariah (1:5–25), then Jesus’ birth to Mary (1:26–38). Mary’s song of praise (1:46–56) and Zechariah’s prophecy (1:67–80) are wondrously recounted. The births of John the Baptist (1:57–66) and that of Jesus (2:1–8) are not left to the reader’s imagination. Throughout, the author expresses the mercy of God (1:50, 72) and the salvation of God (1:47, 69) visible in the coming of Jesus. Have you noticed, though, the theme of joy that pervades the narratives in Luke 1–2? Joy occurs more often in Luke than in Matthew and Mark combined and is a motif that Luke desires to see connected to Jesus’ arrival. Observe the notes of joy documented by Luke. The angel told Zechariah that “Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness,

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God’s Passion for God at Christmas

For this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name. —John 12:27–28 John Piper: Glory to God in the Highest One of the most famous Christmas scenes in the Bible is the announcement to the shepherds by an angel that the Savior is born. And then it says, “Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Luke 2:11–14). Glory to God, peace to man. The angels are sent to make something crystal clear: the Son of God has come into his creation to display the glory of God and to reconcile people from alienation to peace with God. To make God look great in salvation and to make man glad in God. So when we come to John 12, there is no surprise when we hear Jesus praying that this would actually happen at

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Do You Believe in a Santa Christ?

Nathan W. Bingham: In Sinclair Ferguson’s book, In Christ Alone, he shares the sad reality that many Christians have a Christology that is more informed by Santa Claus than Scripture. For them, the message of the incarnation has been so twisted or diluted that they have in fact created for themselves a savior who is nothing more than a Santa Christ. As you prayerfully read Sinclair Ferguson’s words, ask yourself the following question this Christmas season: “Do I believe in a Santa Christ?” 1. A Pelagian Jesus is a Santa Christ Santa Christ is sometimes a Pelagian Jesus. Like Santa, he simply asks us whether we have been good. More exactly, since the assumption is that we are all naturally good, Santa Christ asks us whether we have been “good enough.” So just as Christmas dinner is simply the better dinner we really deserve, Jesus becomes a kind of added bonus who makes a good life even better. He is not seen as the Savior of helpless sinners. 2. A Semi-Pelagian Jesus is

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Mind Your Christmas Imperatives

Tim Challies: Christmas is coming and with it a special season for Christians. Or most Christians, anyway. As we get into the season and as so many people begin their month-long reflections on the birth of Jesus Christ, it’s probably a good time to consider our Christmas imperatives. What are Christians commanded to do in the Christmas season? The Incarnation is nothing short of a miracle. As Christians, we believe that God took on flesh. Jesus Christ, who was and is and always will be God, became a man. The infinite and eternal God was, in the words of John Wesley, “contracted to a span” and “incomprehensibly made man.” An early theologian marveled, “Remaining what he was, he became what he was not.” He became what he was not so he could save the people he loved. Without the incarnation there could be no salvation. Little wonder, then, that God’s people celebrate it on this day and through this season

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Glory of the Newborn King

Caleb Cangelosi: Of all the hymns written about the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the words of Charles Wesley’s “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” are among the most theologically dense and substantive–because all five stanzas are filled with Scriptural truths about Jesus. Before considering the Christology of this beautiful carol, though, it will help us to recall a little of the fascinating and ironic history behind it. Charles Wesley first penned the words of this poem in 1739, a year after his conversion. He originally wrote ten shorter stanzas, without a refrain, and his first two lines were “Hark! How all the welkin rings // Glory to the King of Kings.” Nearly all of us today would ask, “What on earth is a welkin?” A welkin is actually not “on earth” at all. Rather, it is the archaic English word referring to the sky or the celestial sphere where the angels dwell with God. Fifteen years after Wesley first wrote his poem,

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Joy to the world: Far as the Curse is Found

  Al Mohler: Many Christians would be surprised, and perhaps even disappointed, to learn that the song often cited as our favorite Christmas carol is not actually a Christmas carol at all. The famed hymn writer Isaac Watts published “Joy to the World” in 1719. Millions of Christians sing this great hymn at Christmas, celebrating the great news of the incarnation and declaring “let earth receive her king.” “Let every heart, prepare him room, and heaven and angels sing.” At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation of Christ, the coming of Jesus in Bethlehem. But “Joy to the World,” though sung rightly and triumphantly at Christmas, is really about the Second Coming of Christ. Watts led in the development of hymns in the English tradition, drawing many of his hymn texts directly from the Psalms. “Joy to the World” is based upon Psalm 98, which declares creation’s joy when the Lord comes to rule and to judge. When we sing “Joy

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When a dragon tried to eat Jesus: the nativity story we don’t talk about

Chad Bird: I’m still searching for a Christmas card with a red dragon in the nativity, lurking amidst the cows and lambs, waiting to devour the baby in the manger. None of the Gospels mention this unwelcome visitor to Bethlehem, but the Apocalypse does. John paints a seven-headed, ten-horned red dragon onto the peaceful Christmas canvas. You can read all about it in Revelation 12. It’s the nativity story we don’t talk about. A dragon trying to eat our Lord. The red dragon was standing “before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.” Clearly, more was going on at Christmas than drinking eggnog and kissing under the mistletoe. Or even peace on earth. Hark the herald angels sing, a dragon waits to eat our king. SILENT NIGHT, VIOLENT

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10 Things You Should Know about Christmas

By Andreas J. Köstenberger, author of The First Days of Jesus: The Story of the Incarnation. 1. Jesus is the reason for the season. The primary purpose for observing Christmas is remembering Jesus’s birth. At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus’s birthday, not the little drummer boy or Santa Claus! 2. Jesus preexisted with God in the beginning before the world began. Jesus’s birth as a baby in a Bethlehem manger doesn’t mark the beginning of his existence. Rather, as John’s Gospel teaches explicitly (John 1:1, 14) and the other Gospels imply, Jesus took on human flesh in addition to existing eternally as part of the Godhead. 3. Jesus’s birth was the culmination of centuries of messianic expectations. Jesus’s coming occurred in fulfillment of messianic expectations including his birthplace, virgin birth, and other details surrounding his advent. Later, during his earthly ministry and particularly in his death on the cross, Jesus fulfilled many more messianic patterns and predictions. 4. We should distinguish

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The Irrepressible Christ of Christmas

Sam Storms: There was a time when the glitz and tinsel of Christmas used to bother me. But no more. It bothered me, then, because it seemed at times as if Jesus had become lost in all the hoopla of the holiday season. I was fearful that the secularism and sophistication of society had somehow obscured Christ right out of Christmas. But I’ve come to realize that it can’t be done. I’m not bothered by the trinkets of Christmas anymore because I’ve come to realize that no matter what anyone does or what a court may decree, the irrepressible Christ will be there. Even in the stores and shopping malls where crass commercialism is so rampant, Jesus is there. Although the Salvation Army may be banned from certain stores, his name is yet on the lips of adoring shoppers. The intercom in the department stores broadcasts for all to hear, strains of “Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the

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How Can Jesus Be Our Everlasting Father?

  David Sunday: Few words in any language evoke the kind of feelings we have when we hear the word father. Some of us will feel a sense of loss this Christmas season, either because we had fathers who were wonderful but are no longer with us, or because we have unfulfilled longings for the kind of father we’ve never had. How comforting, then, to read of the birth of a child whose name shall be called “Everlasting Father” (Isa. 9:6). Under his care, his protection, and his provision, we are safe and will be satisfied for all eternity. Of all the names attributed to Jesus in Isaiah 9:6, Everlasting Father intrigues me the most because it’s the one I understand the least. How can Jesus the Messiah, the second person of the Godhead, be called Everlasting Father? 1. Isaiah is not confusing Jesus the Messiah with the first person of the Trinity.  Isaiah isn’t teaching us that God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, is

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O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

  John Piper: This translation of an anonymous Latin hymn doubles as a prayer for the first and second coming of Christ. It takes us into the mind of old Israel, longing for the first coming of the Messiah. And it goes beyond that longing by voicing the yearning of the church of Christ for the Messiah, Jesus Christ, to consummate the history of redemption. This makes the carol especially apt for Advent. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we put ourselves in the shoes of Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, and all the pre-Christian saints. We ponder the promises. We strain to see the dawn of salvation. But we know that when it comes, the waiting will not be over. When Emmanuel arrives — when the Day-spring rises — we learn that redemption has only begun. To be sure, it is a magnificent only. The final blood is shed. The debt is paid. Forgiveness is purchased. God’s wrath is removed.

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