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What does the Nicene Creed Have to do with Christmas?

December 23, 2010

This month while singing carols at church, I noticed something about a familiar hymn that I had not seen before. The traditional English hymn “O Come All Ye Faithful” is a moving meditation on the incarnation of our Lord. What struck me was that one verse of the carol actually is a direct quotation from the Nicene Creed, the statement of faith produced at the Council of Nicaea in 325 which eventually became the standard of orthodoxy accepted by all the major branches of the Christian faith (Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant). The hymn says

God of God,
Light of Light,
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb,
Very God,
Begotten, not created,
Oh, come let us adore Him,
Oh, come let us adore Him,
Oh, come let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

The creed says

We believe . . . in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man . . .”

Surely Christmas is the time when we should meditate on the mysterious incarnation of our Lord. Singing about that wonderful event in the language that the church has been using for centuries is a useful reminder that we stand as but one part of a larger cloud of witnesses to this same glorious reality. It also has the beneficial effect of keeping us from heresy!

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