Summary: Who was it exactly that was placed into the manger that first Christmas morning? Was it God but less than God or fully God? Was He fully human or only veiled in flesh? Like the Trinity the Incarnation boggles the limited human mind. Glory to God!
John 1:1-5, 14
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.
“In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Try to imagine an athletic contest where there is a coach and two athletes and this team is in conflict with another team and there is a time when the coach sends in one of the athletes. This athlete commences combat and then when the first athlete has won the victory the coach calls him out from the conflict and sends in the other athlete to preserve and extend the victory.
It is difficult for us humans to grasp the Trinitarian Godhead.
Sometimes we kind of see the Trinity in that way; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. God the Father (the coach) sends God the Son into the battle to defeat the enemy and then calls Him out and sends in God the Holy Spirit to preserve and complete the victory. Kind of like a tag-team match!
Now, that sort of concept is one that we can understand but it is entirely false when applied to the Holy Trinity.
When Jesus was born it was not as if God was divided into three parts - Father in Heaven, Son on earth as the God-man and the Holy Spirit waiting to be deployed!
This is a creed that I will go back to time and again when trying to understand the Trinity and in this case the nature of the God Person within Jesus the Infant in the manger!
Athanasian creed: (Partial - regarding the Trinity)
[W]e worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence.
For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Spirit.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Spirit.
The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Spirit uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Spirit unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Spirit eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite.
So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Spirit Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty.
So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Spirit is God.
And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Spirit Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian [faith]; to acknowledge every Person (of the Trinity) by Himself to be God and Lord; so are we forbidden… to say, there are three Gods, or three Lords.
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another.
But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal.
So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him think of the Trinity in this way.
Why on earth should we drag this old thing out again? Because we need to know Who that Baby in the manger was and is!!!!!
In that Baby was the full and complete glorious and majestic God of the Universe!
In that manger was a Baby Who was and is the uncreated, eternal, almighty, majestic, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient Creator of the Universe!
But wait a minute! It’s even more complex than that! God the Son was not just in the Trinitarian Godhead but in the incarnation, when God became flesh, He was not just God clothed or veiled in skin but He was fully God and fully man.
How can that be? How can one be two; perfect, undiminished God and yet completely human but sinless? How did that work?
J.I. Packer, a British theologian, has said, “Here are two mysteries for the price of one - the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus …. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation.”