“Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descending
Comes our homage to demand.”
Bethlehem was an unlikely place for a King to be born. But Micah prophesied of this little town ushering in a newborn King:
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.” – Micah 5:2
God himself would come to this little town, inhabit flesh and blood, and then offer it up as a holy sacrifice for us. He was born into “the house of bread” (Bethlehem), so he could become the bread of life for us (John 6:35). Bread conjures up ideas of provision, nourishment, and life. A house of bread seems to connote something plentiful and abundant. Jesus told us that his body would be like bread, broken for us on the cross (Luke 22:19). And now, we use bread as a reminder of his broken offering. The bread of life offered in Jesus’ broken body is plentiful and abundant; it’s a storehouse full. His broken body is our provision, nourishment, and life.
Not only did God come in a body, but he came in blood. He came to earth in flesh and blood to offer up his flesh and blood. It’s no coincidence that Jesus introduced the disciples to their first communion at a Passover meal. The disciples would have been familiar with the story of Moses and their ancestors in Egypt: when God sent the final plague that would take the lives of every firstborn Egyptian male, but the people of Israel would be passed over through the blood of a lamb. They were spared by the death of another. So, when Jesus compares wine to his blood at a Passover meal, he’s initiating a new covenant (Luke 22:20); a covenant bonded by the blood of a better sacrifice – the Lamb of God. No one could fathom the ancient mystery that God would be the one to give “his own self for heavenly food.”
That truth that God himself “came in human vesture” to offer up his body and blood for our eternal provision and life calls for our holy silence.
Habakkuk 2:20 says,
“But the Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth keep silence before him.”
We fear and tremble before our God, not only because he is holy and great, but because he is good. We marvel at his grace offered to us through the body and blood of Jesus. He is in his holy temple, high and lifted up as the one true God, and at this we marvel. But because of this we also wonder at his lowliness in Bethlehem. Remembering that silent night should make us silent in awe before a holy God on high descending to us “with blessing in his hand.” We remember this blessing when we partake in communion; when we remember the body and the blood. So, let all mortal flesh keep silence.
This is one of the short devotional meditations found in the free e-book Emmanuel: Readings for the Advent Season.