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Bible Study

Angels watch in awesome wonder: Andrew Pratt

The power of the incarnation is so easily lost on us. This ‘God, contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man’ is frequently reduced to a sentimental tableau against a backdrop of tinsel. Look at the scripture passages:

  • Matthew 1:18 & following This passage speaks of an unmarried mother in a situation of potential disgrace. The picture is not without tension! Instructions are given by angels who are not insubstantial beings but conveyors of challenging instruction. The birth is to take place in a land under the jurisdiction of Herod – byword for political violence. He is to slaughter ‘the innocents’.
  • Luke 2:1 & following Here Luke recalls the poverty of the birth at the back of the inn, possibly in a cave, certainly with the animals. The shepherds are soon in attendance but the nature of the child is attested to by the presence of angels, this time singing and praising God.

And who is this child?

  • John 1:1 & following We turn to John’s account to be assured that this is the Word made flesh – the embodiment of wisdom present at, and before, creation. This child is regarded as the human manifestation of God.

And so the allusions of this hymn become apparent. The disarming, gurgling, giggling baby is the disarming Christ, Prince of Peace and God of reconciliation. This is a real baby, not some meek, mild, un-crying alabaster image. And the child is the real God who spoke in the silence to Elijah, who created all, both thunder and quiet; who breathed across the face of the waters at creation bringing all into being. This is the God who grew into the Christ who challenged misconceptions of power and wealth, of right and wrong; who brought both peace and consternation – depending on who was listening!

Paradoxically the baby is the parent God – ‘all seeing: Caught in space, cocooned in time’. The metamorphosis has taken place, and this we seek to grasp, this God, this ‘Mighty power’ is ‘now humankind’.

© 2001 Andrew Pratt. Copying facilities provided are limited to local use by owners of HymnQuest. Wider or commercial use needs negotiation with the copyright holder.

The copyright in this bible study vests in the author. Permission is given for them to be reproduced by HymnQuest purchasers for local use. Wider or commercial use requires their consent.

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