As we wait in anticipation to celebrate the coming Christ in the flesh, I thought it a good time to ponder the words of St Athanasius (296-373) in his incomparable book On the Incarnation. I was struck by this section early in the book. As you get ready to celebrate Christmas, ponder these words--slowly and often.
For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God entered our world. In
one sense, indeed, He was not far from it before, for no part of creation had ever been without Him Who, while ever
abiding in union with the Father, yet fills all things that are. But now He entered the world in a new way, stooping to
our level in His love and Self-revealing to us. He saw the reasonable race, the race of men that, like Himself,
expressed the Father's Mind, wasting out of existence, and death reigning over all in corruption. He saw that
corruption held us all the closer, because it was the penalty for the Transgression; He saw, too, how unthinkable it
would be for the law to be repealed before it was fulfilled. He saw how unseemly it was that the very things of which
He Himself was the Artificer should be disappearing. He saw how the surpassing wickedness of men was mounting
up against them; He saw also their universal liability to death. All this He saw and, pitying our race, moved with
compassion for our limitation, unable to endure that death should have the mastery, rather than that His creatures
should perish and the work of His Father for us men come to nought, He took to Himself a body, a human body
even as our own. Nor did He will merely to become embodied or merely to appear; had that been so, He could have
revealed His divine majesty in some other and better way. No, He took our body, and not only so, but He
took it directly from a spotless, stainless virgin, without the agency of human father—a pure body, untainted by
intercourse with man. He, the Mighty One, the Artificer of all, Himself prepared this body in the virgin as a temple
for Himself, and took it for His very own, as the instrument through which He was known and in which He dwelt.
Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His
body to death instead of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death
all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, having fulfilled in His body that for which it was
appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men. This He did that He might turn again to incorruption men
who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the appropriation of His body and by the
grace of His resurrection. Thus He would make death to disappear from them as utterly as straw from fire.