The staff at The Well is committing to find “five minutes of peace” daily in Advent. (Join us! Find the details here.) For the next few weeks, we’re sharing reflections on our own experiences of this practice. We hope that hearing what this is like encourages you during your own Advent and gives you a peek behind the curtain at the people who make Women in the Academy and Professions happen.
I need this time in Advent to get ready for Christmas. In the midst of all the plans I was making to prepare, I was longing for a reminder of what we’re actually getting ready for. A celebration of the birth of Jesus; of the incarnation; of the whole plan of salvation. I can’t really wrap my brain around it.
So, I pulled out a tiny book from my seminary book shelf. Athanasius’ On the Incarnation. It is four inches by six inches, and a total of 120 pages (which includes two introductions, a preface, a brief biography and an appendix; the treatise itself is just 71 pages). I’m reading five minutes’ worth every day. I don’t need to finish. I just need to let it seep in.
Athanasius is a church father, an Egyptian Christian, who at the Council of Nicea in 325 helped define the theology of the Trinity. Before that — maybe helping him do that — he wrote this book. It’s some of the most foundational theology, but it’s very readable. C.S. Lewis wrote an introduction for this edition, and he says it nicely: “only a master mind could have written so deeply on a subject with such classical simplicity.”
Here’s a taste of what I got on the very first day of reading:
You must understand why it is that the Word of the Father, so great and so high, has been made manifest in bodily form. He has not assumed a body as proper to His own nature, far from it, for as the Word He is without body. He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men.
We will begin then, with the creation of the world and with God its Maker, for the first fact you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning. There is no inconsistency between creation and salvation; for the one Father has employed the same Agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word Who made it in the beginning.
Isn’t that lovely? Jesus became a human out of the love and goodness of His Father, for salvation. The Word, Jesus, made the world, and renews the world. In the beginning was The Word.
I’m grateful for this reminder of why it’s appropriate to feast and celebrate with great joy at Christmas. And why we need some time to get ready for that celebration.