20 December 2007

"The Doctrine of Bethlehem" - part 2

Advent preparations are winding down and the celebration of Christ's Birth is just around the corner. So we continue the serial reading from Pr. Berthold von Schenk's book, The Presence, under the title "The Doctrine of Bethlehem." This section picks up where Part 1 left off (p. 41) and runs through the end of Chapter 1:

Some may complain that all this is too theological, to dogmatic, and perhaps to abstract. Is there not some spot on earth where this great truth can be focused, where we can reach out to this mystery which the angels desired to behold? Can we not have it human, real, living? It is possible. We can harness that great truth of Bethlehem to a single point. We can translate it into a concrete concept which will bring this sublime truth nearer to us. “God Himself has given us this focusing point in the Incarnation. God had to do it since the world is what it is.” “There is a law which runs throughout our universe. It is this, that life normally functions through matter. Life is known to us through outward signs. The scientist will tell you that this is a law of the universe. Take the lowest form of life—vegetable life. How is it known? Through flowers and trees. Take animal life. How is this known? Through animal bodies. Human life is know through human bodies. You never saw a baby without a body. So then, when the great life of all lives came into the world—when the Eternal was to function here on earth as Saviour, how did He come? In a blaze of glory across the sky to drive men down to their knees? No, He came through the law which runs throughout His creation. God was manifest in the flesh. God, the Eternal, became a little baby”—

“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the Incarnate Deity!”

“They all were looking for a King
To stay they foes and lift them high;
Thou cam’st, a little baby-thing,
That made a woman cry.”

“And this shall be the sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

Simply the story is told: Mary brought forth her first-born Son and wrapped Him in diapers. God in diapers! You see, God obeyed His own Law—He focused Himself to Bethlehem, so that we could conceive of Him through our finite minds. In order that we could harness the great truth with our finite minds, God was made very human babe, and there is nothing so human in all the world as a baby. God became one of us—so that we could realize Him. You will say, “I can grasp that, but my trouble is not with some history which happened 1900 years ago. I believe all this to be true and beautiful. I also believe this was God manifest in the flesh, the eternal God in a manger. But how can this truth become effective in my life? How can it be a living truth? We follow the same scientific law. As God focused Himself in Bethlehem and to Bethlehem as a little babe, in order that we can historically grasp Him and realize Him, so He has also focused the Truth of the Incarnation. He made it possible for the doctrine of Bethlehem to be a reality today.

It is true that Bethlehem, the Virgin Mother and the angels are a reality to many little children. They do not have to be convinced about the reality of Bethlehem. But how hard it is for a grownup to become as a little child. How difficult it is for us to have and to hold the reality of Bethlehem by merely hearing about it. However, it can be brought down to today, for it is focused beautifully for the believer at the Altar—in the Holy Communion. The Holy Communion is the continuation of the Incarnation.

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