Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The King's English: "She wrapped him in swaddling clothes..."

She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

You didn’t choose to get born and neither did I. Only Jesus has ever chosen to be born. But if such powers were at our disposal, would we have decided upon the path that Jesus took?

Surely not. Surely we would have opted for powerful parents, fabulous wealth, plush surroundings, an easy life.

And it’s all the more justifiable in Jesus’ case. After all, He arrives as King. He is taking the throne of His father David (Luke 1:32). Doesn’t that demand a certain level of pomp and ceremony? Or at least dignity? Or publicity?

But no, Jesus chose penniless teenagers in an oppressed backwater under the thumb of mighty Rome. He chose to be born in the land of the shadow of death (Isaiah 9:2,6). He entered our world at its darkest depths. And so His Kingly nature is revealed, not in His high standing but in His lowly stooping.

When the time came, He was not delivered in comfort or safety. In a day when many women died in childbirth:
[Mary] brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)
What John said theologically, Bethlehem’s innkeepers said practically:
He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (John 1:11)
It’s horribly ironic. Bethlehem means “House of Bread.” And when the true Bread of life appears, no-one wants Him.

Nonetheless, Mary puts Him in a feeding trough (i.e. a manger). There He lies as this world’s true Food. And thus,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.
More on those ‘meek souls’ tomorrow. But for now, marvel at the stooping Saviour. To see the nature of God, we naturally look to the heavens. Christmas tells us to look down into the manger. There is true deity.

As Luther has said:
Reason and will would ascend and seek above, but if you would have joy, bend yourself down to this place. There you will find that boy given for you who is your Creator lying in a manger. I will stay with that boy as He sucks, is washed, and dies . . . There is no joy but in this boy. Take Him away and you face the Majesty which terrifies . . . I know of no God but this one in the manger.

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

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