Monday, December 21, 2009

Karl Barth On Christmas

Karl Barth on the wonder of Christmas:
The wonder of Christmas is described in the article of the Apostles' Creed: "Qui conceptus est de spiritu sancto, natus ex Maria virgine"; "who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary." Or, according to the formula of the Nicene Creed which is recited every Sunday, and on many other days, in the Roman Catholic mass and at least on Christmas and on other high festivals in the German Evangelical Church: "Et incarnatus est de spiritu sancto ex Maria virgine et homo factus est"; "and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man." What does this mean?

It certainly means God's presence in our world, His presence as man among men and therefore God's revelation to men. It means man's reconciliation with God. That this happened and still happens, is the substance of the Christmas message. God is the "He" of whom the Creed speaks. In Him is present not only light but the Light, the eternal Light, not only help, but the perfect,
ultimate Helper Himself, not only power, but the Lord of all powers, not only love but the Lover in whom all love is founded, who excels all love and who is so infinitely lovable because He is wholly Love, even if no one responds.

This God is conceived where we all are conceived. He is born of Mary. She who conceived and bore Him, plays our part in the wonder of Christmas, for it concerns us. God has come to us. "Disguised in our flesh and blood, is the eternal good."

In the name of the Messianic King whom Israel expected, the Church has rediscovered the name of "the eternal good' in which she believes and which she confesses. The name is "Immanuel," God with us. ( Is. VII.14).

Even described in such general terms Christmas can only be understood as a wonder. That there is this Love of which Paul can say that it never ends, is not a known fact nor some general truth symbolically represented in the Christmas message but also recognisable elsewhere. Can it really be true: God in our world, God in our world? The facts cry out against it, for they speak of God's remoteness from the world and the world's remoteness from God. It needs a confession of faith to recognise reconciliation as truth, a confession whose strength and weakness lies in the fact that it appeals only to revelation and that it can be made and received only by faith. The Creed of the Christian Church is this confession. It appeals only to revelation, it is made only by faith, it demands and expects nothing but faith when it calls the Love which
never fails, an event, saying: "Et incarnatus est."

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