One day God became man, and a manger the storm center of the universe.

The event of Christmas is so pivotal, so signifcant that we ask the wrong question when we ask what Christmas means. Without Christmas, we should ask, what would anything mean? The birth that is Christmas does not orbit history. History, once looking forward and now looking back, revolves around it. Could the world mean something without the reality of Christmas? Indeed, could the world even be without it?

The ancient Athanasian Creed affirms that Jesus Christ became man “not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of Manhood into God.…” The magnificent Incarnation, which challenged flesh to contain God, has challenged the most luminous divines and writers to contain it with words. It is a challenge that has produced some of mankind’s greatest poetry and hymnody. And it has always—from Augustine to Eliot—stretched language to its breathtaking limits.

The hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle.… And God who had been only a circumference was seen as a center.

—G. K. Chesterton

He it is by whom all things were made, and who was made one of all things; who is the revealer of the Father, the creator of the Mother; the Son of God by the Father without a mother, the Son of man by the Mother without a father; the Word who is God before all time, the Word made flesh at a fitting time, the maker of the sun, made under the sun; ordering all the ages from the bosom of the Father, hallowing a day of to-day from the womb of the Mother; remaining in the former, coming forth from the latter; author of the heaven and the earth, sprung under the heaven out of the earth; unutterably wise, in His wisdom a babe without utterance; filling the world, lying in a manger.

—Saint Augustine

“God is great,” the cry of the Moslems, is a truth which needed no supernatural being to teach men. That God is little, that is the truth which Jesus taught man, and we find at once so tender and so perplexing. It is of the nature of love to be infinitely minute, as well as soaring in its imagination, and this nature is shown us by God.

—Father Nevelle Figgis

Then came, at a predetermined moment, a moment in time and out of time, A moment not out of time, but in time, in what we call history; transecting, bisecting the world of time, a moment in time but not like a moment of time, A moment in time but time was made through that moment: for without the meaning there is no time, and that moment of time gave the meaning.

—T.S. Eliot The Rock

He whom the world could not inwrap Yonder lies in Mary’s lap.

—Martin Luther

Twas much, that man was made like God before, But, that God should be made like man, much more.

—John Donne

Hark, hark, the wise eternal Word Like a weak infant cries. In form of servant is the Lord, And God in cradle lies.

—T. Pestel (1584–1659)

Salvation to all that will is nigh; That All, which always is All everywhere, Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear, Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die, Lo, faithful Virgin, yields Himself to lie In prison, in thy womb; and though He there Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He’ll wear Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try. Ere by the sphere time was created, thou Wast in His mind, who is thy Son, and Brother; Whom thou conciev’st, conceiv’d; yea thou art now Thy Maker’s maker, and the Father’s mother; Thou hast light in dark; and shutt’st in little room, Immensity cloister’d in thy dear womb.

John Donne


Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.