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. 51
    Missy S says:

    That is the most beautiful thing I have read in a LONG time, made more so because it is so chock-full of the Word Himself.

    Thank you for sharing! And, thank you Rodney A. Whitacre for translating it so that we can all enjoy it.

  2. 52
    Jan says:

    1. PRINT

    Love you girl,
    Mrs. Jan

  3. 53
    Living4Him says:

    Yes, Let Us Adore Him. Powerful, refocusing words at just the right time. They brought such peace to my soul.

  4. 54
    Sharon says:

    Thank you, Melissa, for that great reading. I am guilty of sometimes forgetting the real reason we are to celebrate Christmas. Thanks again for the reminder.

  5. 55
    Fran McCurry Plott says:

    Incredible, yet believable! I believe! Aren’t we so blessed to believe?!

  6. 56
    Sandi in MN says:

    That really was beautiful Melissa. In so many ways I hate Christmas, the commercialism, the spending, the junk people buy that no one needs because we feel pressured. Years ago we decided not to do much of that and try to focus, not legalistically, but with hearts full of wonder, the REAL meaning of Christmas. It’s not about family, it’s not about gathering, it’s not about the food or celebration. We celebrate because of HIM, without JESUS, there would be no Christmas. I love Christmas carols, our Jesse tree, Advent and joyously giving because we WANT to, to celebrate the best gift of all…CHRIST himself. What a gift.

    • 56.1
      Melissa says:

      Enjoyed reading these thoughts, Sandi!

    • 56.2
      Pamela Sue says:

      It does run countercultural to say “it’s not about family, it’s not about gathering, it’s not about the food or celebration.” As a siesta from MN, I agree!

      Infuse us with life. Embrace us. Simply sustain us. Soothe us with your gentleness. Happy birthday, Jesus!

  7. 57
    Kelly S. says:

    Thank you Melissa, that was beautiful!! Jesus is truly overwhelming!

    Merry Christmas!

  8. 58
    Julie Bot says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful writing. Yes, let us adore him — Christ the Lord!

  9. 59
    Kay says:

    Love this.

  10. 60
  11. 61
    Kathy B says:

    Thank you for the light analogy. What a marvelous time of year for that word picture. I wrestle each year with what Scripture verse to add to my Christmas card, because I get the opportunity to speak truth to the hearts of several loved ones that are without this Light. Though Isaiah 9:2 was my second choice, I settled on Galatians 4:4-5 out of the NLT. It’s the “Flash Forward” for Day One, Week One in “James: Mercy Triumphs.”

    “But when the right time came, God sent His Son,
    born of a woman, subject to the law.
    God sent Him to buy freedom for us
    who were slaves to the law, so that
    He could adopt us as His very own children.”

    May God bind the enemy who has “…blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the LIGHT of the gospel…,” and make, “…His LIGHT shine in our hearts to give us the LIGHT of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” 2 Cor 4:4,6 (emphasis mine).

  12. 62
    Joyce Watson says:

    Absoultely Wonderful! Thank you for sharing…I like the title “Tapestry of Jesus as Man and God”. I made a copy of it, so I could share with the other ladies at church.

    I wrote a few things:

    They came to seek & find Jesus~Jesus came to seek & find the lost
    They came to bring gifts~Jesus became the gift
    They came to worship~Jesus showed us how to worship
    They came to see the newborn~Jesus is new Life

    Master who calmed the sea
    Who died and gave us life eternally
    How great You are
    How mighty and powerful is Your love
    That lives through us even today
    And calms the soul to rest
    That leads and guides the way.

    You have faced the dangers of life
    And conquered death beyond the grave
    You have healed the sick and given to the poor,
    Given us Yourself and life forever more.

    The angels in Heaven shout Your very name
    Living glory that still remains
    That wipes away sin and human pain,
    You live forever, Master who calmed the sea,
    Always there for you and me. ~joyce

    Christmas is all about Jesus! We have so much to be thankful for! We love you, our Lord and Savior!

  13. 63
    Diana A. says:

    What came to my mind….

    Ascribe to the LORD the Glory due His NAME; Worship the LORD in the Splendor of His HOLINESS!!!!! Psalm 29:2

    O Come and Adore HIM – JESUS CHRIST !!!!

    PRAISE THE LORD!!! He is good and Faithful and mighty!

    Beautiful words thanks for sharing with us Melissa!

    Merry Christmas to LPM 🙂

  14. 64
    Kelly Bollman says:

    Amen. and Amen.

  15. 65
    Berni says:

    Oh, thank you Melissa for your desire to serve Him by presenting to us Siestas such rich perspective! I intend to come back to your blog entry to reread, ponder and rejoice in the wonder of HIM often (not just in this Advent Season).

  16. 66
    Jill says:

    Isn’t amazing that the words of 4th century Archbishop of Constantinople could resonate with 21st century folks? I also want to print Gregory’s words and study them in depth.

    Jesus. Is. Fiercely. Compelling- I loved that. Perfect words.

  17. 67
    HeleddNest says:

    Thanks Melissa for that. Absolutely lovely. Made me stop & take time to think which is just what I needed.

  18. 68
    Sharon says:

    And all FOR US!!! He is a Paradox! A Phenomenon! A continual Woe-ing and Whoa-ing Wonder! He’s so beyond what our minds can imagine! So beyond what we would have made Him to be. So Incredible! So GOoD! So Beautiful! So everything all wrapped into one! How’s that for a God Who WORKS GOOD out of all things!!! Oh, how amazing it is to be loved by One that goes to such extremes and loves like that!!! I stand speechless in awe of such a Savior! Wow, Melissa, powerful, so much to be pondered upon! Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  19. 69
    Donna Jo says:


  20. 70
    Abraham's Daughter says:

    He is the Alpha and Omega, the giver and fulfillment of promises. Thank you for sharing.

    And I have noticed that you use the ESV. I find myself checking it out when studying from my NASB. Would love to know your thoughts.


    • 70.1
      Melissa says:

      Hi Terri, Yes I did use the ESV here but I use lots of translations on a normal basis (ESV, NIV, HCSB, NRSV, NLT, NASB, NKJV, NET, & even the Message) and I compare them with each other often. I am not one to heartily recommend any one particular translation over another but I do like the ESV.

      • Abraham's Daughter says:

        Thanks Melissa.

        I spread several versions across the dining room table along with Zodhiates. But recently have been going to the ESV more frequently and am loving the study notes. And speaking for this Siesta, I value your opinions and insights.


      • Redeemed says:

        So glad to hear your thoughts on translations. And I’d love to peek at your library….you always bring some amazing points to the blog!

  21. 71
    april lopez says:

    Thanks for sharing Melissa. Absolutely Beautiful HE IS!!!!

  22. 72
    Diane says:

    Thank you for sharing this Beth! That and your closing Scripture reminded me of an old Michael Card song “The Final Word” 🙂
    Happy Advent season, and prayers for a wonderful season of refreshment in the mystery of Christ’s incarnation to all!

  23. 73
    Church Lady says:

    Well said,Melissa!

  24. 74
    Julie Weis says:

    isn’t our Jesus awesome?!!!

  25. 75
    Jennifer T says:

    Thanks, Melissa, for sharing the text and your thoughts. Some things, for me, inspire praise that feels almost like the surrender that happens when I’m at the end of my rope. Does that make any sense? I know the Spirit intercedes for me with wordless groans when I’m so overwhelmed by circumstances that I cannot even try to utter a coherent plea to my savior. Then there’s the flip side. I am so undone by my beautiful Jesus all I can do is ‘stare’ agape in wonder. And that’s when, I trust, the Holy Spirit sings the song my soul is yearning but unable to sing on its own. This excerpt has me there. Thanks again!

  26. 76
    Taylor says:


    Thank you for taking the time to post this. It provides such insight to the wonder of His *Person.* (Phil. 3:10)

    Merry Christmas!

  27. 77
    Jenn says:

    As I read through the various verses, I got each comparison. I had to think about the one in Luke 10:30. Plus, I never really think about “gall” being bile. (Matthew 27:34). There’s just so much in God’s Word – things we do and don’t see. It’s amazing how differently people see it and expound upon it – to open hearts and minds with key after key. Living Word. Came here by way of a reference from a friend on Facebook. Glad I did. Thanks.

  28. 78

    Hey Melissa,

    That is an incredible excerpt. Right now, my pastor is doing a series on the book of John about a month or two ago, he did a message where he talked about John 8:12. Since then, I have been fixated on Christ as the Light of the world. I love that verse in Psalms where the Psalmist says that the Lord illumines his darkness. In sections of Scripture where it talks about walking in the light, i think it might be in Colossians, it talks about the fruit of the Light consisting in all goodness and righteousness and truth. He totally embodied that and much more here on earth…

  29. 79
    Pamela McDonald says:

    What a wonderful read!! Thank you so much for sharing this, Melissa. What an awesome, glorious Father we serve!

    Blessings to you and your family.

  30. 80
    Holly says:

    Completely Awesome. Thank you for ‘just running across this’! So thankful for people who study God’s word to this magnitude and then share it! I will be sharing this with all I know.

  31. 81
    Kelly says:

    Beautiful, thanks for sharing.

  32. 82
    Mary Lou says:


    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It is absolutely beautiful and mind-bending. So much to ponder and meditate on. I might just have to share it with others.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  33. 83
    Dayna says:

    Beautiful Melissa, thank you for sharing this. I so need to focus on Him and on the truth. This world can sure get me down especially this time of year.
    Thank you for a bright light in my day.
    God bless you and the family : )
    Love, Dayna

  34. 84
    Nancy says:

    Bless you sweet Melissa.
    What a wonder to meditate on all that Jesus is and does!
    Love you!!!

  35. 85
    Sandra says:


  36. 86
    Sheri Fobare says:

    awesome… just awesome.

  37. 87
    Angela says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I also printed to keep in my bible… I also plan to research this author!!

    What a blessing this community is to me, I do not post often but I check in every day. I love you sisters in Christ and pray for you all!!

    Blessings, Angela

  38. 88
    WendyB says:

    [he was baptized/he came] that he might sanctify the waters.

    See, I could just get lost in this one little nugget alone. I mean, picture it – we typically think of Jesus insisting that John baptize him as sort of an example, a reaching down, a humbling, ……and then just to ENVISION His holiness absolutely searing the waters – the waters He created to begin with – and those ordinary waters being purified just because of His touch, His presence – it just makes me want to curl up in a ball. In a good way.

  39. 89
    Radical Abandonment says:

    Best thing I’ve read this holiday season, so far!

  40. 90
    Julianne says:

    This was a timely word, friend. I will pass this on and on and on. Thank you for sharing this lovely perspective during such a busy season. I read this quote just this morning – so it’s been kind of double whammy morning!

    ‎”Lord Jesus, Master of both light and darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day. We who are anxious over many things look forward to Your coming among us. We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence. We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To you we say, COME, Lord Jesus!” -Henri Nouwen

  41. 91
    Patti says:


  42. 92
    Jennifer D. says:

    Oh Melissa,
    I love to read your posts! You have such a gift! I love that you take such complext or smart sounding works of text and make them comprehendable! Thank you for sharing such an amazing piece of text. What an awesome piece to mediate on as we prepare for Christmas!
    Merry Christmas!

  43. 93
    Cindy says:

    Thank you for sharing this Melissa!! I love love love and yes Jesus is so incredible. How does one even begin to say “Thank you, Lord Jesus”?

  44. 94
    Sally Denton says:

    Thank-you Melissa, This was great to read and re-read. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  45. 95
    TraciG says:

    Thanks Melissa! Takes a bit to read it and digest it. It strikes me that Jesus is the ultimate paradox. I’m thankful for the gift of faith that gives me eyes to see and believe.

    Merry Christmas to you and your whole family!

  46. 96
    Gwen says:

    I’ll read this again & again. Thank you for sharing.

  47. 97
    christina says:

    “A forest full of white lights as big as Texas can’t hold a candle to Jesus.” That one line made me smile even as it convicted me. For almost two weeks we were, um, a few lights short of a Christmas tree and it was overly important to me to get those white lights fixed or replaced. Thanks for being used of God to correct my perspective.

  48. 98
    Teketa says:

    Melissa, Wow and amen! I loved it. I wonder what Gregory of Nazianzus would think about his writings going around the world via the internet?! Thank you for sharing this. Merry Christmas.

  49. 99
    Monica Smith says:


    Oh, how sweet and precious our Jesus is! Thank you for sharing the truth of Jesus.

    Be blessed,

  50. 100
    His Jules says:

    Melissa I do love it when you share your heart and your wisdome with us. I do not always comment but I always ponder over your posts and they drive me to dig deeper and want so much more. Thank you.

    This is so beautiful it makes me want to cry the ugly cry and just sit and wonder at the beauty of this upsidedown kingdom God has so graciously called us to.”even in the midst of all the noise Jesus is so fiercely compelling” Yes He is, thank you for the reminder.

    Merry Christmas,

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