THIS POEM ORIGINALLY APPEARED AS PART OF AN ADVENT SERIES ON THE EMMAUS CHURCH BLOG. YOU CAN FIND IT HERE. THE FEATURED IMAGE IS AN ORIGINAL BY BRADY QUARLES AND IS USED BY PERMISSION.
The glory of incarnation is hard to capture in 14 lines. I wanted at first to contrast the tenderness of new life with the glory of Heaven. Babies are silent, they cannot speak, except when they want to cry. God himself subjected himself to such humility. Although he spoke the world into existence, and upholds the universe by the word of his power, in the manger he could not utter human language. He could only cry. But in his crying he is wiser than any earthly king. Have you ever felt a baby’s hands? They are soft, vulnerable — yet these little hands firmly held the world. How incredible that Christ would leave the palaces of Heaven for the slop bucket of earth.
In writing this piece, I was inspired by a few quotes by one of the most silver-tongued puritans, Samuel Rutherford. He writes so beautifully in The Trial and Triumph of Faith of a God who would take on all the nuances of human form, so as to leverage that human form to save sinners like us. I attempted to convey that image in the last stanza. Finally, I compare Calvary and Bethlehem. We often look to the cross as a symbol of Jesus’ humility, and rightfully so. The King was unjustly accused and “opened not his mouth” (Is 53:7). But the birth of Jesus, and more specifically the incarnation, shows us that he began his life in the same sacrificial humility that he ended it with. This humility, as Philippians 2 tells us, is the primary reason for his supremacy over all things, in heaven and on earth.
Finally, you may notice some overlap of words and themes from last weeks sonnet on glory. This is intentional: glory and humility walk hand in hand. God uses both simultaneously to accomplish his purposes in Christ. Oh the mesmerizing contrast of Christmas!
God Holy became man. Cradle warmed by
The Sun of his own hands, if skin by knife
Prick’d, look — his blood would taste of us. No strife,
No speech: silent sat the babe who spoke the sky,
His cries, omniscient tears, eternal eye.
Heaven clasp Earth with soft, firm hands; a life
Of want, no room, no bed, though fortune rife
Deserved. God Holy became man. But why?
He would take up a heart to beat for us,
Eyes to weep for us, tongue to pray and preach
For us, hands and side be pierced for us: thus
His flowing blood would vilest sinner reach —
Lifted high to die, humble lustrous Glory!
But Bethlehem? Meekness sparks the Story.