Our Lord’s incarnation makes Christmas Merry

JP: The above antique Christmas card is from my sister-in-law’s collection. She comments on it here:

Some of you know that I collect vintage postcards. By far, the best selection is found on Ebay. I no longer collect them at anything near the rate I did when I first started a few years ago, though I did buy a nice one yesterday that I’ll look to scan for you soon. I found a postcard selection displayed in a wooden sewing machine drawer in an antique shop and saw that it was a perfect fit, so that’s how I keep mine now. Christmas being a favorite holiday, I love to pull them out and look at them. A couple of years ago, I found a large lot of religiously themed postcards on Ebay, more than 60 of them. Most people prefer vintage Santa postcards, which can be pricey, so I got the lot at a wonderful price. I noticed when I got them that they all mentioned a certain girl and that’s where the mystery comes in.

All the postcards have to do with a girl named Doris Ridgway, have a religious theme, and all are sent from European countries in December of [date unclear], though to a few different addresses. Some are sent to Doris at her address in Ridgway, Virginia. Some are sent to “Radio Luxembourg” and annotated, “pour Dorothee”. The two scans are typical of all 60 some postcards. I love the script in the second scan from a little Belgian girl. It’s been awhile since I studied French but I think this is an accurate translation: “I am a little girl your age. I am Belgian. I think well of you.” So sweet. You’ll notice that it is addressed to “dise millions d’auditeurs”, which I’m thinking is “ten million listeners” or some such thing. I’ve googled all kinds of things with no luck, exploring Dorothy Ridgway… Hardy, Virginia…Radio Luxemboerg with no luck. Thoughts that have crossed my mind is that maybe little Doris was ill and it was a postcard writing campaign, or maybe there was some type of contest to get the most postcards or collect the most signatures as several of the postcards are signed by more than one person. In any case, I’ve now inherited this collection written to little Doris and I treasure them all, though the story is unknown to me. If any of you are so inclined, have the time and are amateur sleuths, I’d love it if you could tell me the story of this collection.

Chuck Bumgardner has a very helpful blog post entitled Observations on the Incarnation through Church History. Below are links to his blog posts (a veritable feast for the mind and soul!):

Charles Hodge is one of my favorite theologians. Here he offers The Scriptural Facts concerning the Person of Christ.

Brief excerpt only … select the above link for detail:

The proof of this doctrine includes three distinct classes of passages of Scripture, or may be presented in three different forms. First, the proof of the several elements of the doctrine separately. Secondly, the current language of the Scriptures which speak of Christ, from beginning to end, sometimes as man and sometimes as God; and combine the two modes of statement, or pass from the one to the other as naturally and as easily as they do where speaking of man as mortal and immortal, or as corporeal and as spiritual. Thirdly, there are certain passages of Scripture in which the doctrine of the incarnation is formally presented and dogmatically asserted

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On the incarnation

Fra Angelico, “the Annunciation”

JP: From Chuck Bumgardner


Origen

“After the consideration of questions of such importance concerning the being of the Son of God, we are lost in the deepest amazement that such a nature — pre-eminent above all others — would have divested itself of its condition of majesty and would have become human.”


John Flavel

He that intends to build high, lays the foundation deep and low. Christ must have a distinct glory in heaven, transcending that of angels and men, for the saints will know him from all others by his glory, as the sun is known from the lesser stars. And, as he must be exalted infintely above them, so he must first, in order thereunto, be humbled and abased as much below them: “His form was marred more than any man’s; and his visage more than the sons of men.” The ground [background] colors are a deep sable [black], which afterwards are laid on with all the splendour and glory of heaven.


Melito

Though the Son was incorporeal, He formed for Himself a body after our fashion. He appeared as one of the sheep; yet, He still remained the Shepherd. he was esteemed a servant; yet, He did not renounce the Sonship. he was carried in the womb of Mary, yet arrayed in the nature of His Father. He walked upon the earth, yet He filled heaven. he appeared as an infant, yet He did not discard the eternity of His nature. He was invested with a body, but it did not circumscribe the unmixed simplicity of His Divinity. . . . He needed sustenance inasmuch as He was man; yet, He did not cease to feed the entire world inasmuch as He is God. He put on the likeness of a servant, while not impairing the likeness of His Father.


Irenaeus

Nor did the Son truly redeem us by His own blood, if He did not really become man.


C. S. Lewis

The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. . . .

In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity . . . down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created.

But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.

Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour, too.

In this descent and re-ascent everyone will recognise a familiar pattern: a thing written all over the world. It is the pattern of all vegetable life. It must belittle itself into something hard, small and deathlike, it must fall into the ground: thence the new life re-ascends.

It is the pattern of all animal generation too. There is descent from the full and perfect organisms into the spermatozoon and ovum, and in the dark womb a life at first inferior in kind to that of the species which is being reproduced: then the slow ascent to the perfect embryo, to the living, conscious baby, and finally to the adult.

So it is also in our moral and emotional life. The first innocent and spontaneous desires have to submit to the deathlike process of control or total denial: but from that there is a re-ascent to fully formed character in which the strength of the original material all operates but in a new way. Death and Rebirth–go down to go up–it is a key principle. Through this bottleneck, this belittlement, the highroad nearly always lies.

The doctrine of the Incarnation, if accepted, puts this principle even more emphatically at the centre. The pattern is there in Nature because it was first there in God. All the instances of it which I have mentioned turn out to be but transpositions of the Divine theme into a minor key. I am not now referring simply to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. The total pattern, of which they are only the turning point, is the real Death and Re-birth: for certainly no seed ever fell from so fair a tree into so dark and cold a soil as would furnish more than a faint analogy to this huge descent and re-ascension in which God dredged the salt and oozy bottom of Creation.


Tertullian

However, a word of caution must be addressed to all who refuse to believe that our flesh was in Christ, on the grounds that it did not come from the seed of a human father. Let them remember that Adam himself received this flesh of ours without the seed of a human father.


John Gill

[The incarnation] is a very considerable part of the glad tidings of the gospel, and which give it that name: when the angels related to the shepherds the birth of Christ, he said unto them; “Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy”, &c. (Luke 2:10,11). The whole gospel is a mystery; the various doctrines of it are the mysteries of the kingdom; the knowledge of which is given to some, and not to others; it is the mystery of godliness, and, without controversy, great; and this stands the first and principal article of it; “God manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). This is the basis of the Christian religion; a fundamental article of it; and without the belief of it no man can be a Christian; “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God;” born of God, and belongs to him, and is on the side of God and truth; “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God” (1 John 4:2,3).

The incarnation of Christ is a most extraordinary and amazing affair; it is wonderful indeed, that the eternal Son of God should become man; that he should be born of a pure virgin, without any concern of man in it; that this should be brought about by the power of the Holy Ghost, in a way unseen, imperceptible and unknown, signified by his overshadowing; and all this in order to effect the most wonderful work that ever was done in the world, the redemption and salvation of men: it is a most mysterious thing, incomprehensible by men, and not to be accounted for upon the principles of natural reason; and is only to be believed and embraced upon the credit of divine revelation, to which it solely belongs. The heathens had some faint notions of it; at least say some things similar to it. The Brachmanes among the Indians, asserted, that Wistnavius, the second person of the trine-une god with them, had nine times assumed a body, and sometimes an human one; and would once more do the same again; and that he was once born of a virgin. Confucius, the famous Chinese philosopher, who lived almost five hundred years before Christ, it is said, foresaw that the Word would be made flesh; and foretold the year in which it would be; and which was the very year in which Christ was born: but this seems to savour too much of the tale of a Christian in later times. However, several of the deities and heroes of the heathens, Greeks and Romans, are represented as having no father. Now whatever notion the heathens had of an incarnate God, or of a divine Person born of a virgin, in whatsoever manner expressed; this was not owing to any discoveries made by the light of nature, but what was traditionally handed down to them, and was the broken remains of a revelation their ancestors were acquainted with. Otherwise the incarnation of the Son of God, is a doctrine of pure revelation . . .


Cyprian

He enters into a virgin. Through the Holy Spirit, He is clothed with flesh. God is mingled with man.


Methodius

He, being God, was pleased to put on human flesh, so that we, beholding the divine Pattern of our life as on a tablet, should also be able to imitate Him who painted it.


Jonathan Edwards

Though many things had been done in the affair of redemption, though millions of sacrifices had been offered; yet nothing was done to purchase redemption before Christ’s incarnation. No part of the purchase was made, no part of the price was offered till now. But as soon as Christ was incarnate, the purchase began.–And the whole time of Christ’s humiliation, till the morning that he rose from the dead, was taken up in this purchase. Then the purchase was entirely and completely finished. As nothing was done before Christ’s incarnation, so nothing was done after his resurrection, to purchase redemption for men. Nor will there ever be any thing more done to all eternity. That very moment when the human nature of Christ ceased to remain under the power of death, the utmost farthing was paid of the price of salvation for every one of the elect.


Jonathan Edwards

Christ became incarnate, or, which is the same thing, became man, to put himself in a capacity for working out our redemption. For though Christ, as God, was infinitely sufficient for the work, yet to his being in an immediate capacity for it, it was needful that he should not only be God, but man. If Christ had remained only in the divine nature, he would not have been in a capacity to have purchased our salvation; not from any imperfection of the divine nature, but by reason of its absolute and infinite perfection: for Christ, merely as God, was not capable either of that obedience or suffering that was needful. The divine nature is not capable of suffering; for it is infinitely above all suffering. Neither is it capable of obedience to that law which was given to man. It is as impossible that one who is only God, should obey the law that was given to man, as it is that he should suffer man’s punishment.

More from his blog here