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Location: Midwest, United States

Favorite smells: mown hay, turned earth, summer rain, line-dried laundry

26 December 2006

Incarnate Deity

There are many things I love about celebrating the incarnation of Christ, and singing Christmas hymns nears the top of the list.

During our Christmas worship service yesterday, a couple of things struck me while singing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

While singing the second stanza, I was pierced with the beauty of the phrase: “Incarnate Deity”. What a great expression of God in the flesh!

I also recognized Malachi's prophecy in these beautiful words from the third verse:

Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His wings.

I looked in Malachi and found the prophecy in the second verse of the fourth chapter:

But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings;
I love the imagery of Christ rising with brilliant wings to bring healing to His people.

This morning, I again considered that wonderful phrase, "Incarnate Deity." It's prefaced with another great phrase, "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see." But I've always wondered about the phrase that follows it: "Pleased as man with men to dwell." It seems a little awkward to me, as if it suddenly twists our thoughts to focus upon men and our pleasure before refocusing on the miraculous grace that is God in the flesh. Somehow that little twist always seemed inappropriate and out of place to me.

In looking up "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" on the Cyber Hymnal website, I discovered that this wording accurately reflects Charles Wesley’s original version of that stanza:

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate deity!
Pleased as man with men to appear,
Jesus! Our Immanuel here!

But I think the arrangement

by William H. Cummings, which appeared in the Con­gre­ga­tion­al Hymn and Tune Book published by Richard R. Chope in 1857, better captures the essence of the thought:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

God was pleased to dwell with us and walk among us in the flesh. Of course, this pleases us, but the emphasis should remain firmly fixed on God. It was His good pleasure to appear as our Savior, who came in the flesh. Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Deity, who came to save sinners, of whom I am chief.


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