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How to Preach the Cross

March 14, 2018


PewsMANILA—Last week, I wrote about the importance of preaching the cross. We must continually emphasize the cross because it is something that most people (religious or secular) don’t want to hear—and it’s something that most preachers (evangelical or otherwise) don’t really want to preach.

So how do we preach the cross? Where should we begin?

My advice is to go deep into one crucial idea, text, or metaphor. So often when we preach, we try to say everything, and we end up with a sermon that is wide yet shallow. Piling on Bible verses and metaphors results in weak and ineffective preaching. Instead of going wide (and shallow), I’d recommend going deep (and narrow)  when you preach the cross.

I’d recommend choosing one (maybe two) of the following approaches for a sermon:

1. Preach the cross from the Gospels. I might take this one step further and recommend preaching the story of the crucifixion from just one of the gospel writers in any given sermon. Each writer has a particular theological emphasis in their account of Jesus’ life and death. It is worth unpacking each retelling of the crucifixion through the eyes of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.

2. Preach the cross from the Writings of Paul. Preaching the cross from Paul’s letters gives us the opportunity to go deeper into some of the ideas about the cross only implicitly referenced by the gospel writers. Unlike the gospel writers, who convey their theologies of the cross primarily through narrative, Paul gives us a more explicit discussion of the meaning and implications of it. Again, different letters (whether Romans, 1 Corinthians, or Galatians) offer different emphases that are worth treating on their own.

3. Preach the cross from the Old Testament. The best way to do this is to follow the lead of Paul or the gospel writers who make explicit references to the Old Testament as they explain the significance of Jesus’ death. Sometimes it’s enough just to alert your listeners to the Old Testament reference they’re making, but sometimes it’s worth preaching an entire sermon from an Old Testament text (like Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53) that points to the cross and helps us understand its significance in a new way.

4. Preach the cross from a recurring biblical theme or motif. Though I typically like to ground my sermons in a particular text, sometimes it is valuable to ground the sermon in a particular theme which we can trace and unpack through several texts and stories. The key here is to focus narrowly on one theme—like blood sacrifice (see Hebrews 9:22), ransom (see Matthew 20:28), or substitution (Leviticus 16). Obviously, these themes are all related, but they are worth unpacking on their own. Each idea has profound implications for our understanding of the cross.

As we make the cross central to our preaching, we will be reminded that the cross is central to the Scriptures (from start to finish). And as we study and preach the Word with the cross in mind, we will remind our listeners (and ourselves) that the cross is central to the call to discipleship.

Blog / Church / Miscellaneous

Preaching the Cross

March 7, 2018

Cross-for-BlogMANILA—When I was growing up, my family did not go to church every Sunday, but we never missed Christmas Eve or Easter.

This image of the “Christmas-and Easter-only” churchgoer is always in the back of my mind when I prepare to preach in the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday. If someone only went to church twice a year, what sermon would I want them to hear? How could I sum up the essence of the gospel in thirty minutes? What message would make the biggest impact? What words might make all the difference?

In these situations, we often imagine that “relevance” is crucial. How can I preach something that will make sense to everyone in the audience, especially the non-religious who usually don’t go to church? How can I make sure that I don’t unnecessarily offend any non-Christian hearing my sermon?

While it is important to seriously consider your audience when preaching, my advice this Easter is to preach what is undeniably the most offensive sermon you will ever preach. My advice is to scandalize your listeners—both the religious and non-religious.

My advice is to preach the cross.

In 1 Corinthians 1:21-22, Paul reminds us that “…it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles…”

In this text, Paul identifies with every preacher as they negotiate the expectations of different audiences. The Jews (or regular attendees) wanted signs. They wanted to hear inspirational preaching about miracles and healing and provision. But they didn’t want to hear about the cross. To hear a message about a suffering, crucified God was not inspirational–it was a “stumbling block.”

The Greeks (or non-religious) wanted wisdom. They wanted to hear sophisticated arguments and eloquent public speaking (which Paul could do). They wanted someone to convince them, or at least entertain them. But they didn’t want to hear about the cross. To hear a message about a suffering, crucified God was not interesting; it was “foolishness.”

So if Paul knew that neither of his imagined audiences would want to hear the message of the cross, then why did he insist “not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified”? (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Why did Paul insist on preaching a message that neither the religious nor the irreligious wanted to hear?

Because though “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing…to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Paul did not preach Christ crucified because it was popular—he preached the cross because it was powerful. He did not preach to please his listeners—he preached to please his Master. He did not expect most people to respond with enthusiasm—he expected a few to respond with repentance.

If you find it difficult to preach the cross this Easter season, so did Paul. It will never be easy to preach the cross. Even in the lifetime of the apostles, the message of the cross was something that preachers wanted to skip over or minimize.

If your main goal with your Easter sermon is to retain your biggest crowd of 2018, then don’t preach the cross.

If your main goal with your Easter sermon is to impress the non-Christians in the audience with your pop-culture references and casual delivery, then don’t preach the cross.

If your main goal with your Easter sermon is to provide inspiration and motivation for your regular attendees, then don’t preach the cross.

But if your main goal is for people to experience the power of God, then preach Christ crucified, and watch what He does by His Spirit.

Blog / Leadership

Four Lessons From the Life of Billy Graham

February 22, 2018

Billy GrahamMANILA—Earlier today, Billy Graham, perhaps the most influential religious figure of the twentieth century, died in his home in North Carolina at the age of ninety-nine.

Right now, religious and political leaders all over the world are mourning his death and reflecting on his remarkable life. Much can be said about a man who, over six decades of ministry, preached the gospel in person to more than 100 million people in 185 nations.

Here are four things that for me summarize the legacy of Billy Graham:

1. INTEGRITY. In an era when TV preachers and traveling evangelists were synonymous with scandal, Billy Graham set a standard of integrity. That standard is one that leaders and pastors in my generation all attempt to follow. Wisely recognizing that sexual immorality, greed, and pride were the downfall of many of his fellow preachers, Graham and his staff developed the “Modesto Manifesto” to keep him and his staff above reproach. Young leaders, if you want to see what it looks like to live “above reproach,” study the life and habits of Billy Graham.

2. RECONCILIATION. Born in 1918 in the Jim Crow south, Billy Graham grew up in a world where white and black did not mix. They did not go to the same schools, did not live in the same neighborhoods, did not eat in the same restaurants, and did not worship in the same churches. And yet, early in his ministry in the 1940s and 50s, Graham refused to hold segregated revival meetings—even when preaching in the deep south. Once Graham literally took down a rope that marked off the white section from the black section in a tent meeting. Graham was criticized by white segregationist (Christians!) for being too radical and criticized by black civil rights activist for being too moderate. But it is clear that the message of reconciliation had taken deep root in the heart of this young (and soon-to-be-influential) preacher from North Carolina. In 1993, Graham wrote this about racism:

Racism is a sin precisely because it keeps us from obeying God’s command to love our neighbor, and because it has its roots in pride and arrogance. Christians who harbor racism in their attitudes or actions are not following their Lord at this point, for Christ came to bring reconciliation—reconciliation between us and God, and reconciliation between each other. He came to accept us as we are, whoever we are, “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

3. INSTITUTIONS. Though Graham is best known for his evangelistic preaching, in the annals of history, Graham’s greatest influence may be the institutions he left behind. Youth for Christ, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Christianity Today are all vital institutions that Graham helped found and will carry on his work well beyond his lifetime. He was also extremely influential in bringing together Christian leaders and organizations around the world to plan and strategize for the cause of world evangelism. Having participated in working groups organized by the Lausanne Movement (another Graham legacy), I am so thankful that Billy Graham established institutions like these to carry on the work of world mission and evangelism.

4. GOSPEL PROCLAMATION. Though I’ve been preaching for almost four decades, I am always amazed to see how God uses the preached word to accomplish His purposes. Billy Graham’s preaching has been heard by over 100 million people—over 2 billion if we include television and radio! I can only imagine the scene in heaven right now. How long will it take for Graham to meet all the millions of people who were saved through his preaching? I cannot imagine a greater reward than meeting all those people, seeing all those faces, and hearing all their stories.

Well, there is one thing greater. It is what Graham longed for all his life and pleaded with others to pursue. Today, Billy Graham is with Jesus. Today, he sees the face of the Man he called others to follow, and he hears the voice of the One who called him to preach—saying to him “well done, good and faithful servant.”


Blog / Discipleship

God’s Will and Our Will

February 16, 2018


Tower of BabelDUBAI—This past weekend, Deborah and I stopped in Singapore on our way to Every Nation’s 2018 Build Conference in Dubai. On Sunday, I had the privilege of preaching at Every Nation Church Singapore.

The church is going through a series in Genesis, and I was asked to preach about Genesis 11:1-9. My sermon centered on two questions:

1. What do YOU do when God’s plan for your life is different than your plan for your life?
2. What does GOD do when His plan for your life is different than your plan for your life?

You may be familiar with the story of the Tower of Babel. Here’s the key text: Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth’ (Genesis 11:4).

In this text, we find an explicit articulation of the will of the people of Babel and an implicit reference to God’s will.

The people’s will: “let us build ourselves a city… lest we be dispersed” (Genesis 11:4).

God’s will: “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’” (Genesis 9:1).

God wanted Noah’s descendants to go and fill the earth—to be His image bearers and agents of His will in every nation and among every people. But the people of Babel wanted to stay and settle—to make a name for themselves in the land of Shinar.

So what did God do? How did God respond to the disobedience of the people of Babel?

“So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:8).

In short, the people of Babel’s disobedience did not stop God from accomplishing His will. By His grace, He confused their tongues and scattered them so that they could do what He called them to do.

Just think for a minute about the grace of God in this story.

He did not leave these people to pursue their own glory by building a city. He intervened. But God did not send fire down on Babel. He did not send a plague. He did not send an invading army.

Rather, He chose to give these people a gift—the “gift” of tongues. They probably didn’t appreciate it at the time. But think about how God displayed His mercy, creativity, and sovereignty in dealing with the people of Babel.

That’s how He deals with us.

We may not always like His will. We may not always pursue His will. But God will accomplish His purposes in our life anyway. By His grace, He does not punish us or abandon us. Rather, He gently frustrates our will, and time and again, repositions us to do what He called us to do.

Blog / Videos

Five-Minute Leadership: What Is Discipleship?

February 10, 2018

5minLeadership_Large_ColorIn my new video series, Five-Minute Leadership, we’re going back to the basics and discussing the same old boring strokes of discipleship.

Watch below for the opening discussion on “What is Discipleship?” You can also listen to the audio here.

Blog / Discipleship

God, Where Are You? A Four-Year-Old’s Theology on Prayer

January 31, 2018

janis-oppliger-(web)NASHVILLE — A few days ago, I was walking through a parking garage with my granddaughter Josephine, and out of nowhere, she started shouting these words: “God, are you there? God, where are you?”

Her questions echoed through the parking garage as we walked toward the elevator. Though somewhat amused by her shouted prayers, I decided to take her question seriously. “Jo,” I told her, “God can hear you. He is here right now.”

“But I can’t find Him anywhere!” she said before starting another round of questions to God.

“He is everywhere,” I said, “But He usually speaks to us very quietly. And we usually hear Him with our heart instead of our ears.”

Josephine responded to my attempts at four-year-old theologizing with another round of loud prayers: “God, are you there? God, where are you?”

My conversation with Josephine reminded me how strange, yet natural, prayer is. It is strange to speak—silently or at the top of our lungs—to a divine being that we cannot see. It is strange to speak to someone who usually doesn’t respond (at least with sound waves). And yet, prayer is so natural, my four-year-old granddaughter talks to God in a parking garage. Prayer is so natural that people who have never heard the gospel, who only know God from His creation, pray. Prayer is so natural that even secular people who doubt the existence of God pray—especially when they are in trouble. But whether you are a four-year-old from a Christian family, a Tibetan Buddhist, or a Western secularist, there is one question that often haunts our prayers: “God, are you there?”

It’s natural to ask this question, or feel this doubt, when we are speaking to someone whom we can’t see. It’s natural to ask this question when it seems like God is not answering your prayers. It’s natural to ask this question when we are walking through a valley. Whether you are a new Christian or an old Christian, a four-year-old or an eighty-four-year-old, there will be times when we do not sense God’s presence, when our most honest and urgent prayer is, “God, are you there?”

One of my good friends lost his adult son last week. His son was in his thirties with three kids and one on the way. I have no doubt that many people in his grieving family are praying prayers kind of like Josephine’s. If we are tempted to see these kinds of prayers as unspiritual or disappointing to God, consider how David prayed in Psalm 22:1-2: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O, my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, And by night, but I find no rest.

Not only did David utter these words in prayer, Jesus did, too. From the cross, he spoke the words of this psalm as one of His last prayers to His Father. And it is there at the cross that we find hope.

When our prayers (and lives) seem haunted with God’s absence, we can be comforted that Jesus himself experienced God’s absence. He too prayed, “God, are you there?” But the story didn’t end there. Though Jesus’ prayers from the cross seemed to echo through the earth with no response from His Father, God’s answer came three days later at the empty tomb. The message of the gospel tells us that Jesus experienced God’s silence so we could hear God’s voice. It tells us that Jesus experienced God’s absence so we could know his presence forever. It tells us that after the cross is resurrection. It tells us that “weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Blog / Miscellaneous

Top Ten Books I Read in 2017

January 2, 2018


NASHVILLE—It’s often said that “reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Because of too many international flights, I did not exercise my body nearly enough in 2017. But those same flights that prevented physical exercise afforded plenty of time to read. I don’t sleep on planes—I read and occasionally watch a free movie or two. Thanks to the magic of Kindle, I get to carry a whole library on every flight.

To encourage my friends to read, at the end of most years, I post a Top Ten recommended reading list. Here are some of my previous lists: 2016, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2008. Books on my Top Ten lists are not necessarily the best books, the most popular books, or the most important books. They are simply the ten books that impacted me the most in the past twelve months.


Martin-Luther1. Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (2017) by Eric Metaxas. Eric Metaxas, known for his biographies of William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, has written another classic. With a gripping narrative and fascinating detail, Metaxas gives us an up-close look at Martin Luther the man, as well as big-picture perspective on the global implications of the religious revolution he started.

Stephen-SemandsPS2. Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service (2006) by Stephen Seamands. This was on the reading list for my Asbury Seminary course. If you are a pastor, church planter, campus missionary, or any other type of vocational minister, please read this one.  As good as the book was, the classroom lectures by Dr. Seamands were even better. Dr. Seamands started and ended every lecture with a few minutes of worship. What a humble and godly man. I hope and pray that my sermons and messages impact people the way his impacted me.

3. The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission (1995), by LLesslie-Newbiginesslie Newbigin. Originally given as lectures to men and women preparing to go on the mission field, Newbigin’s introduction to the theology of mission has a palpable sense of urgency and the marks of deep theological reflection—a powerful combination that I hope will infect emerging leaders and missionaries in Every Nation.

The-Missional-Church4. The Missional Church and Leadership Formation: Helping Congregations Develop Leadership Capacity (2009), edited by Craig Van Gelder. From a professional perspective, this is one of the most helpful books I read in 2017—exactly what I needed as we begin building Every Nation Theological Seminary (ENTS) to train future pastors, church planters, and missionaries. Van Gelder writes that theological education is at a “crossroads of Christian formation (paideia) and academic acumen (Wissenschaft).” At ENTS, we don’t want to choose between academic acumen and spiritual formation—we plan to do both. Our goal is to inform the mind, transform the heart, and train the hands for ministry. I especially enjoyed Van Gelder’s brief history of theological education in America and his two-word descriptions of pastors in each period. He divided American seminary history into 6 periods—Colonial Period: Resident Theologian; Early 1800s: Gentlemen Pastor; Late 1800s: Churchly Pastor; Post WWII: Pastoral Director; 1970s/1980s: Therapeutic Pastor; Entrepreneurial Leader: 1990s/2000s.

Peter Scazzero5. The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World Leader (2015) by Peter Scazzero. I never read psychological, introspective books unless I have to. Since this book was on my Asbury required list, I had to. It was painful but in a good way. I never realized how emotionally unhealthy I was until reading this. It helped me understand myself and my friends. Read it at your own risk.

Robert-Kegen6. Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization (2009) by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. Despite being another introspective psychological thriller and another Asbury required reading, this might be the most important organizational and relational leadership book I have read in the past decade. It forced me to ask this question to my colleagues: “What one change can I make that will have the greatest impact on this organization?” As uncomfortable as their answers were, I think they helped me to lead better. This comes highly recommended for top leaders in all walks of life (it was originally written for corporate executives).

George-BushPortraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors (2017) by George W. Bush. From the dust jacket: “A vibrant collection of oil paintings and stories by President George W. Bush honoring the sacrifice and courage of America’s military and veterans.” Each portrait and story features a soldier who sacrificed much when W was Commander in Chief. The proceeds of the book go to President Bush’s Military Service Initiative that focuses on helping post-9/11 veterans and their families successfully transition to civilian life. I was moved by each story and by the generosity and compassion of President Bush towards these men and women, some of whom lost limbs, family members, and friends in combat. I also appreciated the presidential art.

Miroslav-Volf8. A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good (2011) by Miroslav Volf. It is easy to say that the gospel can and should impact every area of society. But in an increasingly pluralistic world, it is not easy to figure out exactly how the gospel relates to politics, education, economics, the arts, etc. In this helpful book, Volf attacks this issue head-on and explores some better (and worse) ways to think about Christianity as a public faith.

Christopher-Wright9. The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission (2010) by Christopher J. H. Wright. If we want to bring the gospel into public life (see Volf’s book above), then we have to be clear about who “we” are. This is what Christopher Wright’s book is all about. Helping us understand the identity and the mission of the church in light of God’s mission for the world. Read it and have your understanding of mission expanded and your understanding of church deepened.

Craig-Keener10. IVP Biblical Background Commentary: New Testament (2014) by Craig Keener. This has become one of my favorite commentaries. Sometimes I just read it for fun, even when I’m not doing sermon research. Because, like all Keener books, it is a heavyweight, I suggest you purchase a digital copy.


RUN: Endure the Pain, Keep the Faith, Finish the Race (Releasing 2018) by Ferdie Cabiling with Walter Walker. The only reason this book is not at the top of my list is because it doesn’t officially exist yet. It will certainly be on my 2018 list. I had the privilege of reading an advanced unedited version of Bishop Ferdie’s soon-to-be-released book. It encouraged, convicted, and inspired me—and even made my eyes sweat. You will love to read Run, even if, like me, you hate to run.

Marl-Lua-BransonChurches, Cultures, and Leadership: A Practical Theology of Congregations and Ethnicities (2011) by Mark Lau Branson and Juan F. Martinez. If you are attempting to plant or lead a multiethhnic church or campus ministry, you are a member of a multiethnic church or campus ministry, and/or if you are in a multiethnic marriage, PLEASE READ THIS BOOK!

Blog / Miscellaneous

Remembering R.C. Sproul (1939-2017)

December 19, 2017

NASHVILLE—Last Thursday (December 14), theologian and author R.C. Sproul passed away at the age of 78.

As a young believer in my teens and early twenties, I read Sproul’s books and listened to his radio show. Sproul’s influence on my theology and ministry is difficult to overstate, but it can be summed up in two phrases.

Renewing Your Mind. This was the title of Sproul’s radio show. In each show, Sproul would engage a particular theological or philosophical topic like the doctrine of imputation, Calvin’s ecclesiology, or the philosophical inheritance of Kierkegaard. For twenty-four minutes, Sproul would make complex ideas simple and, at the same time, stretch his listeners to think more deeply about God and world. His radio show was a constant reminder that in order to love God with our minds, we need to renew our minds. As a young disciple, who soon found himself in vocational ministry, I learned from Sproul the necessity of continually renewing my mind and never being satisfied with where I was in my theological understanding. We can always go deeper. Today, Sproul’s radio show is now a podcast, and I still often listen to it on the way to work.

The Holiness of God. This was the title of one of Sproul’s most famous books. I read it when it first came out in 1985, and it changed my life. Though Sproul was popularizing a larger Reformed tradition and was himself influenced by the works of Edwards, Luther, and Calvin, he was the first person who helped me begin to understand the heights of God’s holiness and the depths of man’s sinfulness. The centrality of God’s holiness in Sproul’s theology has deeply shaped the way I read the Bible, the way I preach, and the way I walk with God. My original marked-up copy of The Holiness of God is still in my study. I have read it probably a dozen times over the last thirty years.

When I think of Sproul’s influence on my life, I am reminded of a quote from The Holiness of God that nicely summarizes his life’s pursuit:

It’s dangerous to assume that because a person is drawn to holiness in his study that he is thereby a holy man. There is irony here. I am sure that the reason I have a deep hunger to learn of the holiness of God is precisely because I am not holy. I am a profane man—a man who spends more time out of the temple than in it. But I have had just enough of a taste of the majesty of God to want more. I know what it means to be a forgiven man and what it means to be sent on a mission. My soul cries for more. My soul needs more.

Though I will miss hearing his raspy voice on the “Renewing Your Mind” podcast, I am glad for Sproul that today he is experiencing what he most longed for in life. I am glad that he is now before the throne of God, joining with the angels singing “Holy, holy, holy.”

To learn more about R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries, visit the Ligonier Ministries’ website

Blog / Family

A Three-Year Old’s Theology on the Incarnation

December 6, 2017

NativityORLANDO—A few days ago, I embarked on the annual tradition of setting up our family Christmas tree. As I wrote last year, the agony of pine needles and tangled lights is outweighed by the joy of seeing my grandchildren, Jo and Liam, caught up in the wonder and expectation of the Advent season.

Part of the reason why Jo loves December so much is that her birthday is just ten days before Christmas. Since December 15 and December 25 are so close, we all work hard to distinguish between Jo’s birthday and Christmas, which we have explained to her is Jesus’ birthday.

When looking at an Advent calendar in the kitchen, Jo pointed to December 15 and said, “This is my birthday, right?”

“Yes!” My son William, her dad, replied. “You are going to be four years old on your birthday.”

Pointing to December 25, Jo said, “And this is Jesus’ birthday. How old is he going to be—two or four?”

William smiled awkwardly, having no idea how to answer the question. “Well, Jesus had a second birthday and then two years later, he had a fourth birthday, just like you will be having.”

For the record, I don’t know if Jews in first-century Palestine celebrated birthdays the way we do. But Jo’s question reminds us of the mystery of the incarnation—that Jesus, like Jo, had a fourth birthday.

Jesus, like Jo, was a three-year-old bursting with energy who occasionally made big a mess in Joseph’s carpentry shop.

Jesus, like Jo, was a three-year old who made his parents laugh with his three-year-old sayings and pronunciations. (Josephine calls the month of December, “Becender.”)

Jesus, like Jo, was a three-year-old who needed mommy when he skinned his knee.

Jesus, like Jo, was a three-year-old who, on his best days, made Mary and Joseph wish that he would never grow up (and on his worst days, made Mary and Joseph wish he would hurry up and become an adult).

The mystery of the incarnation is that this same three-year-old—who could act like my granddaughter Josephine—was at the same time “begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father,” as it says in the Nicene Creed.

The mystery of the incarnation is that this three-year-old, who occasionally could make a real mess in his earthly father’s workshop, was present with His Heavenly Father at the creation of the universe.

The mystery of the incarnation is that this three-year-old, who was still learning to speak and form words in His mother tongue (Aramaic), was the eternal Word of God—through whom all things (including our tongues) were made.

The mystery of the incarnation is that this three-year-old, who needed mom to wipe the blood off his knees and the tears from his eyes, was the Lamb of God—who was destined to weep and bleed and bear sins of the world.

The mystery of the incarnation is that this three-year-old, who was the beloved son of Mary and Joseph, was at the same time the beloved Son of God.