Christianity has inspired artists the world over with its transcendent truths: Realities that render words inadequate.
One such reality concerns the baby born in Bethlehem roughly two thousand years ago. During the Christmas season, we sing of his birth heralded by angels on a silent and holy night. Who was that baby? Biblical revelation and church history proclaim him as the God-man.
Origen spoke of his miraculous conception in the 3rd century , and the church fully adopted the doctrine defining his two natures at the Council of Chalcedon, 451 AD: He was fully human and fully God. Two natures united in one person, Jesus Christ.
It’s breathtaking to contemplate, even if you’re not a Christian.
Writing in the middle ages, Anselm of Canterbury wrote about the two natures of Jesus Christ in his treatise Cur Deus Homo (Why the God-man?), and the Westminster Catechism states:
“Christ is exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God, in that as God-man he is advanced to the highest favor with God the Father …” (Q. 54)
In response to the common skeptical claim, “All religions are basically the same”, Christians must digress politely, turning attention to this fundamental difference. No other deity has assumed a human nature.
Osiris? Mithras? Buddha? No. The myths of pagan deities never claim this assumption of the human by the divine; they never embrace the miracle of a theanthropic person. This is not a minor difference, but rather a foundational difference. The God of the Bible made contact with His creation in a unique and exclusive way.
This long revered doctrine of the hypostatic union, shows Christianity to be supreme; Supreme in that the second trinitarian person, the Son, entered linear time and assumed a human nature. Even before he was placed in the manger by his loving mother, Mary, he was a theanthropic embryo.
Echoing St. Anselm, we may ask, “Why the God-Man?”
“Only a human can substitute for human lives,
And only God can take the wrath of God and survive”
It took a God-Man to be our perfect example and to take upon Himself the punishment we deserve. He had to be human to be our substitute, and he had to be God to endure it. Baby Jesus was more than a baby, he was humanized deity.
My own attempt to try and visualize this theological concept has been challenging. I was inspired by the text in John 12:46, which records Jesus saying, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
I recently discovered Sculpey translucent clay and imagined it might be useful for creating an illuminated piece to photograph. I’m still experimenting! If you’d like to follow my process photos and other projects, you can find me on Instagram and FB.
Thanks for stopping by and Merry Christmas!