Rector's Reflections - 11 December

Rector’s Reflections 

Monday 11th December 2023

A Favourite Advent Hymn

Last week, I started a new series of reflections looking at a traditional Advent hymn, “Creator of the Stars of Night”. We have been looking at this verse by verse, and have now reached the third verse :

“Thou camest, Bridegroom of the bride,

As drew the world to evening-tide,

Proceeding from a virgin shrine,

The Son of Man, yet Lord divine”.

This verse contains three  challenging ideas : that Jesus can be referred to as “the Bridegroom of the Bride”; that the date when God chose to be born as human being was not a mere matter of chance- it was chosen for a reason; and the description of Jesus as “the Son of Man, yet Lord divine”.  It is now time to look at this final idea- what might it mean to describe as “The Son of Man, yet Lord divine”?

In a nutshell, this phrase makes three claims about Jesus.  The first is about something which was important to early Christians back in the 1st Century AD : the belief that Jesus was the “Son of Man”, a mysterious figure referred to in Chapter 7 of the Book of Daniel, who many believed would return from heaven at some time in the future in order to judge the world. The Book of Daniel refers to “one like a son of man [ie a human being] coming with the clouds of heaven…”,  who will be “given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples , nations and languages should serve him.”   So our hymn is in agreement with a belief shared by many early Christians : Jesus is indeed the Son of Man, foreseen in Daniel’s prophecy. 

But the hymn is making two further claims about Jesus. Another interpretation of the phrase “Son of Man” is that it is a poetic way of saying that Jesus is the perfect embodiment of what it really means to be a human being – the modern equivalent would be to say that Jesus is “the Fully Human Person”, or perhaps “the Human of Humans”.  But Jesus was more than this – he was also God, so the hymn adds that Jesus is “Lord divine. “  The key thing is to recognise both these aspects of Jesus’ identity : he is both human being and also God, “the Son of Man yet Lord divine”.

Our celebration of Christmas needs to hold these two truths together : the Jesus who was born in a stable in Bethlehem was also God Himself, the Lord of the Universe.  I wonder how our Christmas celebrations recognise that Jesus was n’t merely a human being, however special? How do we celebrate the fact that he was also God?

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