The dangers of using words to describe the Word

A couple of things I posted on Facebook today.

Short reflection on how we have corrupted the spirit of St Nicholas, i.e. Santa Claus…

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
He’s making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who’s naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town

In theological terms, this is a theology of works – you have to earn your presents and Santa gives you what you deserve.

Christmas card 2012How different this is to the story behind St Nicholas who gave sacrificially of his wealth to help particular people in need who could do nothing to earn his gifts. His was a theology of grace, like the Christ-child he served – through his poverty we have become rich, and he has given us ‘grace upon grace.’

Another brief reflection, this time on Away in a manger, a carol that means so much to so many, including me. But it has its drawbacks.

One of them is found in the words…

The cattle are lowing
The poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes…

The danger here is of a docetic Christology, that Jesus only appears to be human – he is the perfect baby who doesn’t cry, when in reality all babies cry.

The second is found in the words…

Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven
To live with Thee there.

They give the impression that the Christian hope is a non-bodily existence in ‘heaven,’ when in fact the real hope is of bodily resurrection to be lived in God’s renewed creation.

On the positive side we have Wesley’s ‘Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate deity,’ and Kendrick’s ‘Uncreated light shines through infant eyes.’
Although no doubt some might read an overly developed kenotic Christology in the former and a docetic one in the latter. I think they are probably wrong, but it does show how difficult it is to express in human language the mystery of the Incarnation. Perhaps that’s why it is good from time to time to keep silent and be caught up in wordless wonder.

About Jared Hay

I'm minister of Priestfield Church in Edinburgh (Church of Scotland), husband of Jane, father of two adult children and am interested in sharing ideas and information through this blog.
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One Response to The dangers of using words to describe the Word

  1. Helen Douglas says:

    Thank you for the option of keeping quiet in wonder!

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