He Was Manifested

A Christmas Meditation “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; He who was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the spirit, Seen of angels, Preached among the nations, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory” (I Tim. 3:16). Here is the master-truth of Christmas. God was manifested in the flesh! This is what gives Christmas its meaning and its importance. We are not at this season celebrating the coming of a sage or a celebrity. We are celebrating the coming into our world of the One who originated it, sustains it, and will one day renew it. A Preexistence Implied – Had He not existed before His birth, it would indeed have been strange to speak of Him at His birth as being “manifested in the flesh.” Certainly we do not speak that way of children born into our families. Imagine anyone of us, on the occasion of a birth of a child, sending a birth announcement to our friends with the message: He was manifested in the flesh. Manifestation implies a previous unmanifested existence. It marks a point at which something hidden, something kept out of sight, becomes visible. Anyone who would seriously consider Jesus Christ must seriously consider the New Testament affirmations of His pre-existence: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14a). “Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might become rich” (II Cor. 8:9). William Barclay puts it emphatically when, commenting on John 1:1, he writes that in the beginning “the Word was already there.”     A Human Nature Involved – He was manifested in the flesh. There are people who are satisfied with only a manifestation in nature. They have a bland admiration for the way some of God’s attributes shine through His works of creation. They like to quote William Herbert Carruth’s lines: A haze on the far horizon, The infinite tender sky, The ripe rich tint of the cornfields, And the wild geese sailing high— And all over upland and lowland The charm of the golden-rod— Some of us call it Autumn And others call it God. The manifestation of which the above text speaks is incomparably greater. It was “in the flesh.” The word “flesh” is a strong term and leaves no room for Docetic fancies. It involves a human nature as the medium of the manifestation. The Word became incarnate and dwelt among us. He did not merely appear to be among us. He was actually among us body and soul. Our Savior is revealed at Bethlehem as One who is not only a perfect human, but as One who is perfectly human. The whole range of Divine attributes was operative in the incarnation. We have in the Bethlehem miracle not simply the embodiment of Divine thought—the other elements of the Divine life being absent hut we have “all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). Something of the wonder of it all is brought out in the lines of Laurence Houseman: Light looked down and beheld Darkness. “Thither will I go,” said Light. Peace looked down and beheld Darkness. “Thither will I go,” said Peace. Love looked down and beheld Hatred. “Thither will I go,” said Love. So came Light and shone. So came Peace and gave rest. So came Love and brought life And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. A Chasm Bridged – Why was God manifested in the flesh? Certainly He is, and always has been, near to every one of us by virtue of His omnipresence. Very near, indeed! He is the all-encompassing Sphere. “He is not far from each one of us,” said Paul to the men of Athens, “for in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:27, 28). But sinners need more than that They need reconciliation. They need “one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5). And sinners have that need satisfied and fulfilled through the miracle of Bethlehem, for “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself” (II Cor. 5, 19). What a chasm was bridged here! Only God could do it! The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. O the love that drew salvation’s plan! O the grace that brought it down to man! O the mighty gulf that God did span! He was manifested. We are not ready to celebrate Christmas as it should be celebrated unless we can say with unfeigned sincerity that God’s manifestation in the flesh is an event so personally precious to us that nothing in the whole range of our thoughts and feelings supersedes it. Leonard Greenway is pastor of the Riverside Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan.