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Gottesblog

A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

The Wonder of the Incarnation

Here is some food for thought in preparation for writing a sermon for Christmas Eve and Day. It comes from Bernard of Clairvaux’s second sermon “On the Mission of the Angel” for Advent.

Let us now give ear to Jeremias, who foretells a new and unheard-of wonder, while he ardently desires, and confidently promises, the coming of Him Whose presence he might not behold. “God has created a new thing on the earth, a woman shall encompass a man.” Who is this woman, and who is this man? And if a man, how is He encompassed by a woman? “Can a man,” said Nicodemus, “return to his mother’s womb, and be born again?” I turn for my answer to the Virgin’s conception and child-bearing, yet even there, among the many new and wonderful mysteries that meet the consideration of the diligent inquirer, this which the Prophet here proposes will excite admiration. There is seen length abbreviated, width straightened, height, lowered, depth filled up. There we behold light withholding its rays, the Word an infant, the Living Water athirst, Him Who is the Bread of Heaven suffering hunger. Attend and see how Omnipotence is ruled, Wisdom instructed, Power sustained; the God Who rejoices the angels is become a Babe at the breast; He Who consoles the afflicted lies weeping in a manger. Attend and see how joy is made sorrowful, strength becomes weakness, life death; but—what is equally wonderful—that sorrow gives joy, that weakness imparts strength, that death restores life. (39—40)

The mystery of the Incarnation is beyond all telling. It strikes me as strange that the Word becoming flesh would cause such lack of words, but, here, Bernard gives it some voice. It restores the wonder of the Incarnation for us who are so accustomed to hearing it.