Our God Contracted to a Span

Is it even possible to understand the Incarnation? Paul Taylor examines the true meaning of Christmas.

Is it even possible to understand the Incarnation? One of my favorite Charles Wesley hymns at least gets close, with these lines:

Our God contracted to a span
Incomprehensibly made Man

The question at issue is this: which Person of the Trinity did the creating? The Scriptures indicate that it was the Son. In Colossians 1:16, we read:

For by Him (Jesus) all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

Everything was made by Jesus, through Jesus, and for Jesus. John’s Gospel reminds us:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1–5)

This Word is also the Light. The passage is well known to be John talking about Jesus. Yet Genesis begins with these words of God:

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)

The parallel is too striking to be ignored. If we compare these two passages, then we come to the conclusion that, because God Himself is light, Jesus is clearly God. Though the physical light energy is something that God created, Jesus Himself is uncreated, because He is God. As we have seen above, it is Jesus who did the creating. That is why the Nicene Creed reminds us:

And [we believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.

Yet at the Christmas season, our thoughts are drawn towards a baby.

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

This is the depth of the miracle. In that manger, just a foot or so long, lay the One who had made the universe—the Creator Himself. God contracted to a span indeed! God, who is infinite, all-powerful and all-present, became a tiny baby human being! That miracle is indeed very hard to get our heads round. We believe it is true, however, and this causes us to reflect on God’s love and majesty with awe.

Wesley says it right, in the same hymn:

See in that Infant’s face
The depths of deity,
And labour while ye gaze
To sound the mystery
In vain; ye angels gaze no more,
But fall, and silently adore.


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