The Mystery of the Incarnation

I love this time of year because we ponder as a church (local & universal) the nature of Christ’s person and incarnation. I’ve recently been reading through various early Christian texts, and the other day I came across a selection from a piece written by Gregory of Nazianzus in the fourth century (ca. 329-390). It struck me as a particularly gorgeous thing to read this Christmas season as we contemplate, celebrate, and worship Jesus.

The following selection is Gregory’s Oration 29.20 The Mystery of the Incarnation: A Scriptural Tapestry of Jesus as Man and God. The English translation is Rodney A. Whitacre’s own found in his book A Patristic Greek Reader (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 2007), 244-246. Whitacre’s aim is to provide a wooden-ish but readable translation from the Greek text for students who are learning to read the respective Greek portions. Please note also that the scriptural citations I have placed in parentheses here on the blog are not my own but are footnoted in Whitacre’s volume.

The Mystery of the Incarnation: A Scriptural Tapestry of Jesus as Man and God by Gregory of Nazianzus

“He was baptized (Matt. 3:13) as man, but he destroyed sins (Matt. 9:6) as God; he himself was not in need of purifying rites, but [he was baptized/he came] that he might sanctify the waters. He was tempted (Matt. 4:1) as man, but he conquered as God; not only this but he even encouraged [us] to be courageous, since he had conquered the world (John 16:33). He was hungry, but he fed thousands (John 6:10); not only this but he is indeed life-giving and heavenly bread (John 6:51). He was thirsty (John 4:7; 19:28), but he shouted, “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37); not only this but he also promised that those who believe would gush forth [with water] (John 7:38). He was tired (John 4:6), but for those who are tired and heavy laden he is rest (Matt. 11:28). He was heavy with sleep (Matt. 8:24), but he is light upon the sea; not only this but he even rebukes winds; not only this but he even makes Peter light when he is sinking (Matt. 14:25, 29; Matt. 8:26). He pays tax, but [he does so] from a fish (Matt. 17:24-27); not only this but he is even king of those demanding [the tax]. He hears himself called a Samaritan and demon-possessed (John 8:48), but he saves the one who went down from Jerusalem and fell among robbers (Luke 10:30); not only this but he is even recognized by demons (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34) and drives out demons (Matt. 8:16), and he sinks a legion of spirits (Luke 8:33) and sees the ruler of demons falling like lightning (Luke 10:18). He is stoned, but he is not caught (John 8:59). He prays (Matt. 14:23; 26:36; Heb. 5:7), but he hears [prayers] (Acts 7:59). He weeps (John 11:35), but he causes tears to cease. He asks where Lazarus [is laid] (John 11:34), for he was man, but he raises Lazarus (John 11:43), for he was God. He is sold, and very cheaply, for [it was] for thirty silver coins (Matt. 26:15), but he buys back the world, and [it was] for a great price, for [it was] for his own blood (1 Pet 1:18-19). He was led as a sheep to slaughter (Isa 53:7), but he shepherds Israel, and now, indeed, the whole inhabited world (John 10:11). [He is] silent like a lamb (Isa 53:7; Matt. 26:63), but he is the Word (John 1:1), being proclaimed by a voice of one shouting in the desert (John 1:23). He has been weakened, wounded, but he heals every disease and every infirmity (Isa. 53:5). He is lifted up upon the tree (John 12:32), he is fixed [to it] (Acts 2:23), but he restores by the tree of life (John 6:51); not only this but he saves even a robber crucified with [him] (Luke 23:43); not only this but he darkens everything that is seen (Luke 23:44). He is given cheap wine to drink (Luke 23:36), he is fed bile (Matt. 27:34). Who? The one who changed the water into wine (John 2:1-11), the destroyer of the bitter taste (Heb. 2:9), the [one who is] sweetness and all desire (Song 5:16). He hands over his life, but he has authority to take it again (John 10:18); not only this but the curtain is torn apart (Matt. 27:51); for the things above are exhibited (Cf. Rev. 11:19; 15:5) not only this but rocks are split; not only this but dead are raised beforehand (Matt. 27:51-52). He dies, but he makes alive, and by death he destroys death. He is buried, but he rises. He goes down into Hades (1 Peter 3:18-19), but he brings up souls; not only this but he goes up into heaven; not only this but he will come to judge the living and the dead . . . ” (Gregory of Nazianzus Oration 29.20, translation by Rodney A. Whitacre)

Is that not incredible?

I mean, is Jesus not incredible?!

Life can get pretty noisy and busy two weeks before Christmas. People in store aisles fight over toys (or, at least they do in the movies) and people in the church pews fight over what Christmas is really supposed to look like. BUT, even in the midst of all the noise Jesus is so fiercely compelling, isn’t He? He draws us into His life and He moves us forward, beyond the bickering and even our well-meaning but sometimes misguided sentiment and nostalgia. A forest full of white lights as big as Texas can’t hold a candle to Jesus.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
Isaiah 9:2 ESV

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:1; 4-5 ESV.

O, Come Let Us Adore Him.


166 Responses to “The Mystery of the Incarnation”

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  1. 101
  2. 102
    Cassie Williams says:

    Every time I read your posts it makes me hungry to study more. I love the Bible and the more I learn, the more I want to learn. I would so love to take some classes in Biblical Archeaology and language classes and really be able to dive in. I love it because it is God’s Word and speaks to me, but I am also one of those weird people who love the history and the details in it. You encourage that with your posts. They excite me in a weird way. Thanks

  3. 103
    Liezil from Stettler, AB says:

    That is gorgeously profound and wonderful to move our focus back to where it belongs. Thanks for sharing that Melissa!

  4. 104
    Nancy says:

    Absolutely magnificent! The writing, and Jesus!

  5. 105
    Carrie says:

    Love, love, love that. Worth meditating on till it sinks in real good 🙂 What a beautiful picture of our Savior!

  6. 106
    Shirlea says:

    Melissa, you are helping us stretch and grow and study in a way that is absolutely awesome!! What a legacy for your anointed Mama!! What a joy she must feel to have raised up two daughters who will bring our younger generation of women to, not only, a new and broader understanding of God’s Word, but a pure LOVE of it!! I have been in Beth Moore studies for years and now I’m loving both daughters……how good can it get? Praise to God for blessings that overflow through this ministry.

  7. 107

    I love your words always. I didn’t think it was possible for someone to writer deeper than myself…but you are deeper in so much more of an intellectual way than I. God balances where we need compliment:) love ya girl!
    ***Seasons change throughout the year, but sharing our heart should not be saved for Christmas alone.” ***

  8. 108

    Love this —-> A forest full of white lights as big as Texas can’t hold a candle to Jesus.

  9. 109
    Tara G. says:

    How does one possibly comment further?! Thank you for taking the time to type this out, edit some and share!

  10. 110
    Barby M., Houston says:

    Absolutely fantastic! I am reading this at 6 am and what a way to start the day. Praise God we will never fully wrap our minds around the majesty and perfection of our LORD!

  11. 111
    kari says:

    But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

    Isaiah 40:31
    Kari, Benton AR

  12. 112
    Margie by the Sea says:

    Thank you, Melissa, for sharing this beautiful compilation of the glories mysteries of Christ from Gregory of Nazianzus.
    I’d never read this before, but I agree with you that it is a perfect time of year to stop and contemplate the gift of who He is.
    Keep sharing with us; we love what you bring to our minds and hearts,
    I wish a blessed Christmas for you and all of the Moore family.

  13. 113
    Suzanne Fetterolf says:

    Suzanne, Summerfield, Fl.

    Rev. 15:3b
    Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the saints. NKJV

  14. 114
    Olda says:


    Thank you for sharing.

    This is another post which presents opportunity for us to ponder the wonder of our God. Your posts are beautiful. May you sense the delight of the Father over you and your family.

    Merry Christmas!


  15. 115
    Dana Nance says:

    I LOVE this, Melissa! Thank you so much for sharing!

  16. 116
    Merle NM says:

    And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32 KJV

  17. 117
    Melanie says:

    This is just amazing, Melissa. Thank you for sharing this in the midst of this season ~ the parallels and paradoxes serving to help me worship my Lord more at Christmastime. Can’t wait to read it to my family soon!

  18. 118

    Wow…that’s pretty amazing. I could almost hear the voice of Dr. Tony Evans in the rythm of that writing. (even tho it was written way before him) Something about the ‘not only this’ part reminded me of his way of teaching.

    Jesus is amazing! Oh to know Him better and better. Thanks for spurring us in that direction Melissa.


  19. 119
    Lynn says:

    Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
    For I knwo the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord,” plans to prosper and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

    Thank you Beth for the opportunity to do the scripture work. I have been going through some trials this past year and I realized this week that these scriptures I have hand selected each month have become a part of my story. I can’t thank you enough.

  20. 120

    Hey, Melissa!! This is awesome and an absolutely great way to approach Christmas Day! Thank you and have a beautiful Christmas … as you have already blessed mine.
    (will miss seeing you girls at SSMT celebration … heading to Disney to celebrate our 25th anniversary! Yahoo!)

  21. 121
    Kari Schmitt says:

    Kari Schmitt, Camarillo, California: We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2

    This journey of scripture memorization has truly added an element of joy to my life! It gave me a purpose for diving deeper into the Bible every other week and really trying to live out or learn from my chosen scripture. And for that I am a better person and I feel much more connected to the Lord. Thank you for leading me along the way!

  22. 122
    Diane Bailey says:

    Diane, Montgomery, Al “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Matthew 26:41 NIV

  23. 123
    Diane Senk says:

    Diane, Commerce Twp., MI
    Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
    2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV

  24. 124
    Brenda says:

    Thank you for posting this Beth, it was so inspiring and it blessed me greatly. Merry CHRISTmas to you and your family and staff!

  25. 125
    ruth says:

    Oh, Melissa: so rich. It is as if we can hear that ancient Believer’s own thrill as he shares all these revealed truths of our Savior and Lord. It reminds me of another “genre” of such a cataloging of the characteristics of Jesus, the sermon by S. M. Lockridge “That’s My King, Do You Know Him?” (which one can hear on YouTube if you search that name and title–and it’s only a few minutes long).
    Abundant is He.
    Thank you for the ancient reminder.
    (please feel free to edit this out, Lindsee or whoever is moderating the blog, but I did want to share it especially with those wordsmiths there at LPM) I would love to share a stunning, if somewhat provocative, essay about Christmas that seems to fit the theme of God’s extravagance in the Incarnation. I know NOTHING of the group whose Blog it is, and do not endorse anything more than the pretty fabulous prose about the Incarnation and Christmas celebration:

  26. 126
    Kristi says:

    Kristi. Conway. This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 NLT

  27. 127
    Cheryl says:

    That was absolutely beautiful and a wonderful reminder of who Jesus is and all that He has done for us. Thank you for this timely reminder which brings my focus right back where it belongs – on Jesus.

  28. 128
    Pamela Roberts says:

    Pam Hamilton, OH

    The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

    But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    I Cor. 15:56-57 (KJV)

  29. 129
    ashleigh says:

    AMEN AND HALLELUJAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. 130

    Beautiful, Melissa! Yep, Jesus is incredible! Thank you for the reminder!

  31. 131
    Cathy Eason says:

    I love this!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  32. 132
    Romona says:

    Thank you. You brighten my day. I so love that you expose me to new thoughts and meditations.

  33. 133
    Natalie says:

    I got so excited that it was the last verse to memorize for this year that I forgot to post! LOL 🙂 This experience has really stretched me. I have been amazed at how God has used the verses that I memorized to continue to teach me or to be able to share them with others! Thank you for inspiring and motivating me to do this! Can’t wait for the celebration!
    Natalie, Houston

    16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
    Eph 16-10 NIV

  34. 134
    Rita Quinlan says:

    Rita – Alva, Florida

    “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another that you may be healed. The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

    James 5:16 KJV

  35. 135
    MrsHLBjr says:

    What an amazing picture of our Glorious Savior! My favorite line:
    “He is sold, and very cheaply, for [it was] for thirty silver coins (Matt. 26:15), but he buys back the world, and [it was] for a great price, for [it was] for his own blood (1 Pet 1:18-19).”


    Hallelujah!! HE BOUGHT ME BACK!!! I’m saved!!!

  36. 136
    kari says:

    That is just beautiful! Thank you.

  37. 137
    Linda says:

    It would be interesting to see if this book, The Mystery of the Incarnation, is included in 25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to the Essential Spiritual Classics by Renovare. Thanks for sharing this information!

  38. 138
    valerie says:

    That was wonderful to read and even better to research. Great alone time with Jesus and I just did a portion of it. I will continue it through the weekend. Glory to His Name.

  39. 139
    Johnnie says:

    Jesus is so worthy of all honor and glory—we are compelled to break out in praise to the One True God!!

  40. 140
    Deborah Mott says:

    Wonderful!!!!! Thank you for this great treasure!!!!

  41. 141
    Deborah Mott says:

    Copied and pasted this to save it and share…thank you so much!

  42. 142
    Dawn says:

    Thank you so much for posting this passage. I know it is now after CHRISTmas, but it is EXACTLY what I need today, as I look forward to a new year serving my Jesus. This passage shouts HE IS ABLE to me!!!

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share this.
    I know this girl in MO really needed to hear it.

    Have a Blessed and Beautiful Day,

  43. 143
    Angela says:

    Oh, to have the faith of the saints of old. Thanks, Melissa. I always learn something when you post.

    Mansfield TX

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