Wondering at the Incarnation: “Almighty Slept”

The doctrine of the incarnation—that the Godhead was “veiled in flesh,” to quote Wesley’s great hymn—is filled with ironies. As God, the Word has enjoyed all the attributes of deity from eternity past. But as man, the Word become flesh partook of the weaknesses of the creature. He fled and slept; He bled and wept. He died that He might purchase us with His blood.

The following text probably needs to be tightened up a bit if it is to be used in song, but it searches out some of the mysteries of the Incarnation and expresses my adoring wonder. What a Savior we have!

Almighty Slept

Almighty slept—What irony!
Be awed by Christ’s humanity.
In cattle stall then violent storm
Almighty slept, first young, then worn.
Almighty slept—Who slumbers not!—
And God as man salvation brought.

Messiah fled—Indignity!
Be struck by God’s fragility.
As mothers mourned and Herod schemed
Messiah fled, warned through a dream.
Messiah fled, yet at God’s time
Embraced the cross with joy sublime.

The Maker sweat—A mystery!
Be touched by His humility.
By toil fatigued and sin oppressed,
The Maker sweat that we may rest.
The Maker sweat great drops of red
To ponder death in sinners’ stead.

The Sov’reign wept—Such empathy!
Be moved by mourning majesty.
As once He grieved at Laz’rus’ tomb,
The Sov’reign wept with death-like gloom.
The Sov’reign wept in garden still,
Yet bowed before His Father’s will.

The Savior bled—Oh travesty!
Be pierced by Jesus’ agony.
As Satan raged and sinners scorned
The Savior bled—despised, forlorn.
The Savior bled for sin perverse
To vanquish sin and end the curse.



3 Responses

  1. Luther: “The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.”

  2. I love this–our Savior, human like us; our Savior, divine! Another poem also captures the duality. From one of my favorite poets–Christina Rossetti (known most for the carol “In the Bleak Mid-WInter”) is the following (forgive the length):

    A holy, heavenly chime
    Rings fulness in of time,
    And on His Mother’s breast
    Our Lord God ever-Blest
    Is laid a Babe at rest.

    Stoop, Spirits unused to stoop,
    Swoop, Angels, flying swoop,
    Adoring as you gaze,
    Uplifting hymns of praise,–
    “Grace to the Full of Grace!”

    The cave is cold and strait
    To hold the angelic state.
    More strait it is, more cold,
    To foster and infold
    Its Maker one hour old.

    Thrilled through with awestruck love,
    Meek Angels poised above,
    To see their God look down.
    “What, is there never a Crown
    For Him in swaddled gown?

    “How comes He soft and weak
    With such a tender cheek,
    With such a soft, small hand?–
    The very Hand which spann’d
    Heaven when its girth was plann’d.

    “How comes He with a voice
    Which is but baby-noise?–
    That Voice which spake with might:
    ‘Let there be light!’ and light
    Sprang out before our sight.

    “What need hath He of flesh
    Made flawless now afresh?
    What need of human heart?–
    Heart that must bleed and smart,
    Choosing the better part.

    “But see: His gracious smile
    Dismisses us a while
    To serve Him in His kin.
    Haste we, make haste, begin
    To fetch His brethren in.”

    Like stars they flash and shoot,
    The Shepherds they salute.
    “Glory to God” they sing;
    “Good news of peace we bring,
    For Christ is born a King.”

    Lo! newborn Jesus,
    Soft and weak and small,
    Wrapped in baby’s bands
    By His Mother’s hands,
    Lord God of all.

    Lord God of Mary,
    Whom His Lips caress
    While He rocks to rest
    On her milky breast
    In helplessness.

    Lord God of shepherds
    Flocking through the cold,
    Flocking through the dark
    To the only Ark,
    The only Fold.

    Lord God of all things,
    Be they near or far,
    Be they high or low;
    Lord of storm and snow,
    Angel and star.

    Lord God of all men,–
    My Lord and my God!
    Thou who lovest me,
    Keep me close to Thee
    By staff and rod.

    Lo! newborn Jesus,
    Loving great and small,
    Love’s free Sacrifice,
    Opening Arms and Eyes
    To one and all.

  3. Chris,

    I really like this. I hope you will hone it into a new Chistmas hymn.


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