N is for Nativity

Nativity is another word for Christmas, when the birth of Jesus is celebrated, even though we don’t know the actual date of his birth. Jesus coming into the world is also known as the incarnation, when God, as Jesus, became fully human. This is expressed implicitly rather than explicitly in the New Testament, but by the early second century Christians were calling Christ God. There were a number of controversies around this idea, which I’m not going to go into here, and, just like the church today, they had to have a meeting to try and sort it out!

The Council of Chalcedon met in 451 and stated that in Jesus Christ there are two natures, human and divine, each complete and entire, unmixed but not separated. Needless to say, such a description has been the subject of various interpretations over the years. One interpretation is that without the descent of the divine into the human, there can be no ascent of the human to the divine, which is arguably the goal of life. Jesus is seen as the image of God on the human level, bearing the stamp of God’s nature as it says in Hebrews 1:3. Jesus himself said, “And whoever sees me sees him who sent me” (John 12:45).

John’s Gospel begins with what is known as the Prologue (“In the beginning was the Word and … the Word became flesh …). Here’s Friedrich von Hugel’s take on that passage:

“A person came, and lived and loved, and did and taught, and died and rose again, and lives on by his power and his spirit for ever within us and amongst us, so unspeakably rich and yet so simple, so sublime and yet so homely, so divinely above us yet precisely in being so divinely near – that his character and teaching require, for an ever fuller yet never complete understanding, the varying study, and different experiments and applications, embodiments and unrollings of all the races and civilizations, of all the individual and corporate, the simultaneous and successive experiences of the human race to the end of time.”

A prayer by George Appleton (adapted for inclusive language):

O Christ, my Lord, you came from God into our life and lived in our world, sharing our nature, subject to the happenings of life and the actions of the people among whom you lived. You went to God, so you are always with God in his presence with us. You are the everliving one, still showing us humankind as we are meant to be, and sharing with us the results of your victorious life, to enable us to grow into your likeness. O brother man, O divine Son, O beloved Lord. Amen.

Published by Angie Allport

Methodist minister

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