One of the more puzzling lines in the Definition of Chalcedon is where it says, “as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the virgin, the God-bearer.” What does it mean to confess that Mary is the “God-bearer?” We should note that this title is carefully qualified by the phrase “as regards his manhood,” which comes immediately after in the original Greek. But there is a very important point being underlined about the personal nature of our salvation. The One born in Bethlehem is the Logos/the eternal Word of the Father who embraced His creation for us men and for our salvation.
The Text: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made…” (Jn. 1:1-14)
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
“In the beginning” intentionally echoes Genesis 1, but the word “arxe” also means “preeminence, first, chief, principle, power,” and it’s immediately obvious that this “arxe” refers to something even “before” the beginning of Genesis 1, when the Word was with God and the Word was God (Jn. 1:1). That Word of God was in the beginning of Creation also, and that same Word made all things (Jn. 1:2-3). He is the source of all life and light, and He is the kind of light that darkness cannot comprehend or approach at all (Jn. 1:4-5, cf. Js. 1:17, 1 Tim. 6:16).
John was sent from God as a witness of that Light, the true Light who gives light and life to all men (Jn. 1:6-9). He was in the world and made manifest by His creation but unrecognized because of sin (Jn. 1:10, cf. Rom. 1:19-20). So He came to His own, but even His own people rejected Him (Jn. 1:11). But to those who received Him and believed in Him, He made them sons of God by the power of God (Jn. 1:12-13). And this was accomplished by the Word becoming flesh to reveal the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14).
CHRISTOLOGY AS SOTERIOLOGY
Donald Fairbairn has pointed out that in the early church the focus on the Trinity and Christology was not unrelated to soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). For example, since Christ is the “only begotten of the Father,” salvation means being born again not of blood or the will of man but by the power of God (Jn. 1:12-14). What Christ has by nature in the Godhead (Eternal Son), He has become man in order to share with us in salvation (sons by adoption). As John Piper has put it, “God is the gospel.”
And we see this particularly highlighted in John: “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me” (Jn. 6:57). “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the father: and I lay down my life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:15). “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me… And will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter… the Spirit of truth… at that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (Jn. 14:11, 16-17, 20). Who was born of Mary? The Eternal Son, the Word who is God. As the hymn says, “Christ our God to earth descendeth.” Why does this matter? Because the very same life that Christ shares with the Father by nature, He came to share with His people by His Spirit.
UNION WITH CHRIST
The Definition of Chalcedon is clear that the divine and human natures come together in Christ “without confusion,” and so the Creator-creature distinction remains fixed. But precisely because Christ holds those natures together “without division, without separation,” by the power of the Spirit, that same Spirit is able to unite us in fellowship with the Father in Christ. This is no mysticism or merging of natures; this is a true covenant union in Christ. This is the power by which mere fallen creatures, become children of God, born not of blood nor the will of man, but the will of God, which is all grace. This is why the New Testament talks so much about our salvation “in Christ” (Rom. 6, Eph. 1, Col. 2, etc.).
The Goodness of Stuff: Christmas celebrates God’s union with His creation. The Word who made all things became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory. How did we behold the glory of the Father? In the flesh of Jesus Christ, in the stuff that He made. Christ made all things and made us to make things and enjoy all things as part of our enjoyment of Him. Sin distorts this, causing us to suppress God’s glory in creation and to idolize creation, but the answer is not to disdain creation or ignore it. The answer is to see every bit of creation as a burning bush, where we may see His glory and taste and see His goodness and worship Him.
So Christmas rightly celebrates the stuff that Christ made and the stuff He came to restore to its rightful glory. All of creation groans with the weight of our sin, but the heavens still declare the glory of God. And so we make our houses sparkle like the heavens with lights. And if Christ has given us bread and wine to remember Him and feed on Him and enjoy His life, all food has been given to enjoy as His gifts: steak and fudge and wine and eggnog and gifts. But think of all these gifts as tokens of the infinitely greater Giver.
Fellowship with the Father: Mary was an ordinary woman of extraordinary faith, and as such, she pictures what Christ intends to do by His Spirit. He intends to live in us, to share true fellowship with us: “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full” (1 Jn. 1:3-4). This jyful fellowship is only maintained by confession of sin and the cleansing blood of Christ (1 Jn. 1:7-9).
Christ is re-making a race of men and women, who are more masculine, more feminine, more truly human: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). The center of this glory is in the Word read and preached, but it is that same Word that created all things and shines in all He has made. So see Him there, know Him, and love Him more.