We are currently going through the four weeks of Advent with our family and our local church. It’s one of the key ways to intentionally engage in a time of anticipation and worship that avoids much of the secularization of our Christmas season. Advent means—coming. We walk through four weeks of anticipation of the coming of the King of kings who would be born in a manger in order that he would save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21) by an ignominious death by Roman crucifixion.
In 1739, Charles Wesley penned one of the most significant Christmas carols of church history titled, “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.” Interestingly enough, it remains an enduring sound of the Christmas season for both the Christian community and the secular community as well. It’s a common thing to walk into the shopping mall and hear Wesley’s hymn echoing off of the walls as people stand in line to see Santa or go about their yearly Christmas shopping traditions.
Within the hymn, we find several key theological phrases that bring us joy during this season of Advent. One such line reads, “Born that man no more may die.” What a wonderful truth. The birth of Jesus was planned in order that Jesus would die in the place of sinners and that his people would experience eternal life rather than eternal death.
One line that strikes at the heart of Christology is “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see.” Consider the implications of this statement that we often overlook as we sing this grand hymn each Christmas season.
Prior to Jesus’ incarnation, he dwelt among the Trinity without human flesh. Before the foundation of the world, Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit—yet without flesh. After the world was created by Jesus (Colossians 1), he dwelt in the throne room of heaven without human flesh. It was the miracle of the incarnation that brought to our dark and depraved world the hope of salvation on that very first Christmas—very God of very God veiled in flesh.
From the stable on that first Christmas throughout Jesus earthly ministry—the Godhead was put on vivid display in the person, preaching, and work of Jesus of Nazareth. The shepherds witnessed it, the Jews rejected it, and the disciples rejoiced in it. As Jesus said, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:7).
Imagine the reality that Mary had to grasp through the angelic message. In her womb was God himself. Consider the fact that the disciples walked with God, talked with God, and worshiped God in human flesh. Imagine the horror of the day as the soldiers nailed God to the cross. It was made known to all of the eyewitnesses that Jesus was truly God in human flesh as he rose from the dead on the third day.
As powerful as the image is of “veiled in flesh the Godhead see” is in that manger scene, can you imagine the scene of Psalm 24? As Jesus ascended following his bodily resurrection, the call came to open the doors to the throne room. Who is this King of glory? The answer: “The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory.” I can only imagine the scene as Jesus in resurrected flesh ascends the throne of heaven and sits down. Jesus—the Son of the Living God—veiled in human flesh and seated on heaven’s throne. What a scene to behold.
One day, Jesus will return and the whole wide world will know that the little baby who was born in Bethlehem on that first Christmas was indeed God himself veiled in human flesh—the Savior of the world.
May your heart rejoice during this Christmas season as you anticipate and celebrate the birth of King Jesus.