In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.Luke 2:1-7, ESV
Two Natures of the One Christ
In the person of Jesus Christ, there are two natures. Jesus is both truly divine and truly human. This historic Christian teaching stretches the mind beyond its limits. According to Jesus’ divine nature, He is Omnipotent, Omniscient, Eternal, and Immense. According to Jesus’ human nature, He is weak, learning, finite, and material. These two natures must not be confused, divided, or separated. We have one Jesus Christ our Lord, and not two Jesus’. This doctrine is known by the term hypostatic union and is codified in the Chalcedonian Creed.
We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.Chalcedonian Creed, 451 AD
With this ancient Christian creed as our theological boundary marker, let’s try to explore the landscape of the original nativity scene. This young mother and new father have welcomed a beautiful baby boy into the world. The flood of emotions was intense as the joy of this beautiful moment clashed with the sadness of their ugly circumstances. This baby looks just like every other baby, but He is special. This baby boy is the virgin-born Son of God. How different is He? Jesus cries for His mother’s breast, cries because He is exhausted, and cries while he squiggles and squirms in his swaddling clothes. That’s right, He is truly human. Yet, in addition to the human nature that is clearly evident, He has the divine nature still not perceptible by His mother and Joseph.
This mystery of the incarnation is truly beyond our comprehension. We should all look upon this glorious doctrine with humility like King David in Psalm 8, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon, and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet”. King David, at the height of power, stood in awe and wonder at the grand thought of the Almighty God caring for His lowly creatures. The author of Hebrews applies this language from Psalm 8 to Jesus in Hebrews 2 because the God-man is made a little lower than the angels “so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”. Our minds stagger to try and understand why God has visited His people.
Eternal and Newborn
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.John 1:1
The Apostle John begins his account of the gospel by identifying Jesus as co-existent, co-eternal, and co-equal with the Father. While Mary and Joseph welcomed the newborn Jesus into the world, this seemingly helpless child was the eternal God who created the world He came to save. Joseph and Mary starring into the face of a humble baby boy but could not perceive this was the person who made them for this moment and loved them in eternity past before the creation of the world. The mystery is that this child was truly a child. This was not God pretending to be a baby boy. This was the second person of the Trinity manifested in the flesh (1 Tim 3:16). His divine nature is perfectly united with His human nature “inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved”. This little baby wrapped in swaddling clothes is both Almighty and weak. He is both Omniscient and learning. David was right, “what is man that you are mindful of him?” God was now wrapped in swaddling clothes because He was beginning His work of redeeming.