The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

And the Word Was Made Flesh


St. John is not the first of the Four Evangelists that we usually think of in association with Christmas.   It is St. Matthew and St. Luke who provide us with the narrative of our Lord’s nativity.   St. Luke tells of the census of Caesar Augustus that required Joseph and the Virgin Mary to journey to Bethlehem where they found no room in the inn and so had to lodge in the stable where the Lord Jesus was born.   St. Luke also tells us of the angelic choir who appeared to the shepherds and directed them to where they might find the newborn Messiah.   St. Matthew tells us of the visit of the wise men from the East bringing the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.   It is St. John, however, who plainly states the importance of these events:


And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (Jn. 1:14)


This is a theological statement.   It, and the words which immediately follow after in which the Evangelist testifies to his and others (SS Peter and James at the Transfiguration) having beheld the glory of the Word, conclude the extended theological discourse about the Word that serves as a preamble to the fourth Gospel.


That the celebration of the birth of our Saviour is a time for deep theological reflection was evidently an opinion shared by the writers of the most familiar and loved of Christmas carols.   Think of these words from what Charles Wesley called his Hymn for Christmas Day later retitled Hark the Herald Angels Sing by George Whitefield:


Veil'd in Flesh the Godhead see,
Hail th' incarnate Deity!
Pleas'd as Man with Men t'appear,
Jesus our Emmanuel here.


Since the days of Wesley and Whitefield the last two lines have been further revised to “Pleased as Man with Men to dwell/Jesus our Emmanuel” but the import is the same and it is also the same as that of John 1:14 – God came down and took on human flesh and dwelt among us.


Or think of the second stanza of Adeste Fideles, known in English as O Come, All Ye Faithful, the composition of which is uncertain but which was first published to our knowledge by John Francis Wade in the eighteenth century (Frederick Oakeley was the translator for the English version):


Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine
Gestant puellæ viscera
Deum verum, genitum non factum.


Or in English:


God of God, light of light,
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin's womb;
Very God, begotten, not created.


This is largely taken from the Nicene Creed.   It comes from the section of the Creed that addresses the Arian heresy that the Nicene Council was convened to deal with. (1)   These words were put in to make it absolutely clear that the Jesus in Whom the Church places her faith is God, co-equal and co-eternal, with the Father.   The middle line references the ancient hymn Te Deum Laudamus traditionally attributed to St. Ambrose of Milan.


Later in the carol we find this more direct reference to John 1:14:


Patris aeterni Verbum caro factum.


A literal translation would be “The Word of the Eternal Father made flesh”.   In the usual English version it is rendered:


Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.


This, the Incarnation, is the key theological truth of Christmas.   While the Gospel message is focused on the events of Good Friday and Easter, in which Jesus took our sins upon Himself, paid the penalty as our Redeemer, defeated the foes who had long held us captive – sin, the devil, death, hell – and rose triumphant over them from the grave, none of this would have been possible without the events of Christmas, without the Incarnation.   Just as the joy of the empty tomb and the encounters with the risen Lord could not have been had there not first been the sorrow and the suffering of the Cross, so there could have been neither Cross nor empty tomb, had there not first been that birth in the stable in Bethlehem.  The road to Calvary – and what came after – began at the manger.


There are some who like to tell us that “Logos” in John 1:14, and the entire Johannine preamble to which it belongs, should not have been translated “Word” in English.   The English word “Word”, they tell us, does not do justice to the Greek word.   While they are partly right in that the Greek word has a lot more meaning to unpack than is suggested by its English equivalent it is very wrong to say that any word other than “Word” could properly render Logos in the Gospel of St. John.   To render it otherwise, as Reason perhaps, or Logic, might bring out some of the philosophical implications of Logos, but would lose the significance that St. John himself attached to Logos in using it to identify Him Who became Incarnate and was born of the Virgin.   The very first words of the preamble “En archei” are an obvious allusion to the first words of Genesis – “in the beginning”.   After asserting of the Logos that He was with God and that He was God – two Persons, co-equal, co-eternal – , and repeating for emphasis that He was in the beginning with God, the very next thing St. John says of the Logos is “panta di’ autou egeneto kai choris auto egeneto oude hen ho gegonen”.  The Authorized Bible faithfully and accurately renders that as “All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made”.   This too alludes to the first chapter of Genesis. 


The first verse of Genesis says “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth”.   This introduces us explicitly to the Father, the God with Whom, the Logos/Word was in the beginning according to John 1:1.   God the Son, the Logos/Word through Whom all things were made is implicit in the verse.   The Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost, is introduced to us in the second verse “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”   Then in the third verse He Who was implicit in the first is brought out into the open and introduced to us explicitly “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light”.


These words “And God said” occur throughout the Creation account.   The sixth verse “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.”   The ninth verse “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.” The eleventh verse “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.”   Verses fourteen to fifteen “ And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.”   The twentieth verse “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.”   The twenty fourth verse: “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.”   Finally the twenty-sixth verse “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”


When St. John says of the Word, “all things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made”, this summarizes the entire first chapter of Genesis.  God the Father created all things by speaking them into existence.   God the Son is the living Word thus spoken through Whom the Father created all things. This is Who St. John tells us “was made flesh and dwelt among us”.     So, as usual, the translators of the Authorized Bible got it right, and the preachers who like to think they are a lot smarter than they actually are have it wrong.   (2) Word, and only Word, is the right word for Logos in the English of John 1:1-14.


The All-Powerful Word of God, Who was with God the Father from the beginning, and sharing His divine essence is Himself God, became flesh and dwelt among us.   He was, as He Himself told Nicodemus in John 3:16, God’s gift to us – the first Christmas gift.

The response that this calls for from us is that of the refrain of Adeste Fideles:


O come, let us adore Him

O come, let us adore Him

O come, let us adore Him

Christ the Lord.


Merry Christmas!





 (1)   Speaking of the Nicene Council, the sixth century Church historian Theodorus Lector in his Historia Tripartita lists the Right Reverend Nicholas, Bishop of Myra as having been in attendance.   Yes, that is the Saint Nicholas.  According to later legends, he slapped either Arius himself or one of the heresiarch’s followers in the face at the Council.

(2)   Preachers who think they are a lot smarter than they actually are tend to come out of the woodworks at this time of the year.   There are those who like to tell us that Jesus couldn’t have been born in December and that the Church borrowed a pagan holiday when she made December 25th Christmas.   Hippolytus of Rome, who died almost a century prior to the first Council of Nicaea wrote that Jesus was born eight days before the kalends of January, and a December birth is the implication of the account of the angel’s visit to Zechariah in St. Luke’s Gospel.  Zechariah was of the division of Abijah that served in the Temple during the week of Yom Kippur in September/October.  The sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, therefore, would have been March/April, when the conception of Jesus took place, making His birth in December/January.   Then there are those who claim Jeremiah 10 forbids Christmas trees.   These might have a point if anyone burned incense to a Christmas tree, offered it a sacrifice, or prayed to it, but as this is not what is typically done with Christmas trees, which are decorations not idols, these preachers merely prove themselves to be Pharisaical clowns of the worst sort.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Your Holiday Reading Assignment


At the beginning of this, the first week in Advent, we in the Dominion of Canada were given an early Christmas gift.   On Monday the book Grave Error: How the Media Misled Us (And the Truth About Residential Schools) was released.   This book was co-written by C. P. Champion, historian and editor of the Dorchester Review and Tom Flanagan, historian, political scientists, and former adviser to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.   It was co-published by Dorchester Books, the book imprint of the semi-annual history journal that Champion edits, and by True North Media, the online media company that is one of the few sources of news in our country not under the thumb of the current Prime Minister, the evil Captain Airhead.   A foreword was contributed by the Right Honourable Baron Black of Crossharbour.   The book, from the description of it provided by its publishers, addresses the many misconceptions, partial truths, and outright lies that a far too large percentage of the population have accepted with regards to the Indian Residential Schools since Canada’s corrupt and dishonourable mainstream media, with the backing of our corrupt and dishonourable politicians and academics, turned the announcement of the discovery of ground disturbances on the site of the former Kamloops Residential School a couple of summers ago into a pretext for launching a disgusting campaign of hate directed against our country, her founders, her historical leaders, and her churches.


This is a book notice rather than a review.   I have not had the opportunity to read the book myself, yet, having only just learned of it this week, and am not in the habit of reviewing books that I have not read.   I am familiar with the writers and publishers, however, and on that basis am quite confident that it is everything it advertises itself to be and on those grounds am comfortable with recommending it to others.


The timing of this book’s release could not be more fortuitous.   On 30 November, the Canadian Press reported that John Robertson, a municipal counsellor in Murray Harbour, Prince Edward Island, had been suspended for six months, fined $500 and ordered to write a letter of apology, for displaying a sign on his own property that said “Truth: Mass grave hoax” and “Reconciliation: Redeem Sir John A.’s integrity”.   There was nothing wrong with that sign.   When the CBC and other mainstream media outlets took the Kamloops band’s announcement that it had discovered what it believed to be unmarked graves, a claim that as it turned out itself exceeded what its evidentiary basis could support, and exaggerated that into a claim of mass graves, hoax is indeed the appropriate word to describe it.   That anybody, anywhere in this country, could be suspended from duty and fined for standing up for the reputation of the leading Father of Confederation, our first and greatest Prime Minister, is obscene.     This incident, however, is an indicator of something much larger that is underway in our country.    The forces in media, academia and government, bent on tearing apart the foundation of our country and civilization, who have latched on to the Residential Schools narrative as a means of accomplishing their unholy, Satan inspired, Year Zero, Cultural Maoist ends, have grown bolder in their intolerance of any dissent from their narrative as the flimsy from the onset evidentiary support for that narrative has eroded away to nothing due to the efforts of researchers, such as those associated with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy here in Winnipeg, who have been willing to examine that evidence.   They have weighed it in the balance over and over again, and as with King Belshazzar in the book of Daniel, it has been found to be wanting every time.   The Cultural Maoists are demanding that these researchers and everyone who repeats their findings be silenced.   There is even a movement in Parliament to outright criminalize disagreement with the narrative.


This is why it is so timely that a book like this, challenging that narrative head on, has appeared.   It is also why it is imperative that we get it into the hands of as many Canadians as possible.


Get your copy today.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Sheep and Goats, Law and Gospel

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:  And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.  Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. Matthew 25:31-46


The Parable of the Sheep and Goats occurs at the very end of a long discussion by Jesus that is traditionally called the Olivet Discourse after the location where it was given, the Mount of Olives.    This sermon occupies two chapters in the Gospel according to St. Matthew.   Much more abridged versions of it can be found in the Gospels according to SS Mark and Luke.   It was given on the Tuesday of Passion Week, that is, the Tuesday after His Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and prior to His Crucifixion on Good Friday.   The occasion of His giving this sermon was His having told His disciples that not one stone would be left on another of the Second Temple, prompting the disciples to ask Him when this would be and when would be the time of His Coming.


The Olivet Discourse as a whole has long been a hermeneutical conundrum.   Is it eschatological, that is to say, talking about the events that will take place at the very end of temporal history at what we after the Ascension would call the Second Coming of Christ?   Is it historical, that is to say, discussing events that took place within the first century, specifically when the Roman army led by Titus crushed the Jewish rebellion and destroyed the Temple.  Much of the language within the Sermon is apocalyptic, suggesting that it is eschatological.   The context, however, suggests the historical interpretation since it was certainly the events of AD 70 to which Jesus was referring when He predicted the dismantling of the Temple.


The closest thing to a traditional consensus is to say that the Olivet Discourse pertains to both the events of AD 70 and those that will occur at the end of time because the disciples had, without realizing it, asked a question about both by conflating the Destruction of the Temple that Jesus had been talking about with His Second Coming which, of course, they would not have conceived of as a Second Coming at that point in time.    Accepting this consensus does not solve the interpretive problem, however, because the question then becomes how does the Discourse pertain to the events of the first century and those of the end of time?   Is it a matter of everything in the Discourse having a double reference, first to the events of AD 70 and second to the events surrounding the Second Coming?   Or does part of the Discourse refer to the Destruction of the Temple and part to the end of time?


Something in between these two seems the most likely answer.  The parts of the Discourse that most obviously are speaking of the Destruction of the Temple could easily be understood as having a secondary reference to the Second Coming.   There are other parts of the Discourse, however, where the reference to the end of time is quite clear but which would require a great deal of text-torture to fit the events of AD 70.  The Parable of the Sheep and Goats is one of these parts.


The Parable presents us with a different sort of interpretive conundrum.   It seems to be teaching that salvation is a reward for good works.   How do we reconcile this with the rest of the New Testament that teaches that salvation is a gift and not a reward for works?


A few observations are in order.


The first is that the Parable is about the Last Judgement.   This is why works are in focus here.   Works are the subject matter of all judgement, temporal or final.   That is the nature of judgement.   To judge is to pronounce what someone has done to be either good and praiseworthy or bad and worthy of condemnation.   The question, therefore, is not so much how this Parable squares with the New Testament teaching of salvation by grace but how the idea of a Last Judgement squares with the idea of salvation by grace.   The Parable, as we shall see, sheds a lot of light on the answer to this question.


The second observation is that in the Parable the works are not what determines who is a sheep and who is a goat.   It is amazing how often this obvious detail is overlooked.   The Parable does not say that the Judge will say to some people, “I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me and for this reason I count you as my sheep” and that He will say to others “I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not and for this reason I count you as goats”.   No, they are divided into sheep and goats first, then the judgement of each takes place.


The reason that it is important to note this is because of our third observation: the Parable does not say that the corporal works of mercy were done only by the sheep and never by the goats.   What it says is that in the Judgement the goats will be held strictly accountable and condemned for the slightest neglect or failure to do these works.   The sheep, on the other hand, will receive a very different sort of Judgement in which they are rewarded for the slightest example of their doing such works.


The difference in the way the two groups are judged is precisely the difference between Law and Gospel.   In the Law, God establishes His standard of righteousness, holds people strictly to account, and “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (Jas. 2:10).   The goats are those who receive Judgement according to the Law.   This is the Judgement that those who reject the Gospel will receive.


The Gospel is the Good News to people who deserve the Judgement the goats receive, and that is all of us, that God has given us His Only-Begotten Son to save us from our sin and the destruction it brings upon us through His death on the Cross for our sins and His Resurrection.   The salvation proclaimed in the Gospel is free and is received by believing in the Saviour given.   To believe in the freely given Saviour and His salvation, however, one must abandon all claim to reward based on his own merit and pronounce himself worthy of condemnation.   Hence the surprise on the part of the sheep to hear their works brought up in a commendatory way.  The sheep are those who had renounced their works, renounced the idea that they could merit any reward from God, pronounced themselves to be unprofitable servants, and put their trust in the freely given mercy and grace of God in Jesus Christ.


That the Judge does commend their works and speak of their entrance into His Kingdom as a reward is itself an act of mercy and grace.   Their works most certainly did not merit this.   Held up to the strict scrutiny of the Law they would merit only the condemnation the goats received.   The Judge, not as Judge at His Second Coming but as Saviour at His First Coming, had taken their sin upon Himself that He might share His righteousness with them, and the cleansing of His blood had removed the sin from their works, that He might now at the Last Judgement, in an act of pure grace, commend them for the works that did not merit such commendation and could not be so commended apart from His saving mercy.