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Veiled in flesh?

What's your least favourite Christmas Carol line?

"The little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes" gives me heartburn.

But ironically my least favourite line comes from my favourite carol - Hark the Herald:

"Veiled in flesh the Godhead see."

Doesn't this communicate the terrible error that 'becoming flesh' obscures the divine glory rather than expresses it?  It seems to say that Christ's glory exists behind and apart from His flesh.  As though His humanity hides his divinity.

Or can we salvage the line?  Perhaps it's just like Luther's 'revealed in His hiddenness / hidden in His revealedness' type paradox?  Does the following line cover the error - "Hail the Incarnate Deity"?

What think you?

And are there other lines that bug you at Christmas?


0 thoughts on “Veiled in flesh?

  1. Bob MacDonald

    This is a good line - it reminds me that it is through this veil that we come to the meeting place with God - only through this veil, his flesh. It is a remarkable use of that allusion to the veil of the temple.

    There will I meet with you.

  2. timothycairns

    I think the line means what Bob says - its trying to get at John 1:14 in song. He bacame flesh and tabernacled with us and we beheld his glory - the veil is the temple veil

  3. glenscriv

    Hmm, well as long as the veil isn't *hiding* the Godhead but revealing it. It's significant that God meets with us on the mercy seat (Ex 25:22) rather than the veil. I reckon most people singing the carol would assume it was saying the Godhead is obscured or diluted by flesh. But perhaps it's teaching the Lutheran paradox. As Dave points out - the Godhead *is* seen.

  4. Dev

    actually i think it's a great line
    the whole Godhead residing bodily
    but yet it's the sinful flesh that is the veil
    torn and released on the cross for all to see the reality of God shone in the darkness
    i think it's the 'kjv rendition' of the word flesh...

  5. The Orange Mailman


    Do you have the Christmas album "Behold the Lamb of God" by Andrew Peterson? It's great. Here is a lyric from Labor of Love to counter the “The little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes” heartburn that you are experiencing.

    It was not a silent night
    There was blood on the ground
    You could hear a woman cry
    In the alleyways that night
    On the streets of David's town

    A lyric that bugs me is from Angels We Have Heard on High. It's "sweetly singing o'er the plains". First off, they didn't sing, at least on that night anyway. And whatever the nature of their voices, I don't believe anyway, was sweet. The shepherds were fearful at first, so I don't think it was "sweet" in any way. Plus, I don't care for the melody in that song, so I'm just looking for an excuse to not want to sing it.

    I looked up a couple of verses, and you may have a point about "veiled in flesh". God was manifest in the flesh, as in, that's how he was made known, was in the flesh. On the other hand, what was the transfiguration all about?

    Have fun and stay busy - Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

    P.S. If heartburn persists, stay away from The Little Drummer Boy and try some Joy to the World.

  6. pgjackson

    One of my least favourite has to be:

    Where like stars His children crowned
    All in white shall wait around.

    Especially the 'wait around' bit - it just sounds like we'll be spending eternity twiddling our thumbs and trying to think of conversation starters ('Soooo, er, nice robes these aren't they?' 'Why yes, and very white too!').

  7. glenscriv

    Hi Orange - that is a much needed tonic, thanks!

    And if there was a decent one syllable word for manifest then I'd much rather substitute that for 'veiled'. (Shone? Shown? Bared? - see, it's tricky)

    Pete - yeah that's a shocker! Twiddling our celestial thumbs but at least we'll be shiny!

  8. LizB

    I was told that "veiled in flesh the Godhead see" was about the uncircumsized penis and that it meant through man God is always here, but invisible.

  9. Glen

    No Liz, it definitely doesn't mean that. What it does mean is that this Christmas as you 'see' the baby in the manger you are seeing nothing less than your Maker, Saviour and Judge. Another carol I like says:

    See within the manger lies
    He Who built the starry skies.

    Hope you'll see Him this Christmas.

  10. Heather

    Er. Um. I've never heard that particular explanation of "veiled in flesh" before.

    I once happened upon a website that picked apart nearly every Christmas carol ever written (not saying you are doing this) because they were not "theologically accurate enough" to be worthy of our time.

    I'm not sure I totally agree with that sentiment. Most Christmas songs do seem to be errant in one or another aspect. They were written by imperfect people, and I still sing them.

    Thought I'd share my absolute favorite (non-traditional) multi-functional Christmas/Easter song


  11. Linda Burns

    Like it or not, veils do not reveal what is hidden. "His flesh" manifest the Truth - that God, at the foundation of the world, provided Himself a Sacrifice.

  12. James

    In a sense, Christ's glory was hidden from the world. Colossians 3:4 talks about Christ "being revealed," and Titus 2:13 talks about the "appearing of the glory" of Christ. Yes, humanity revealed one aspect of His glory, but Christ's glory as revealed in Revelation is still hidden from the world.

  13. Tim Pullin

    The ancient biblical understanding was that, to see God was a death sentence, "No man can see God and live". See Exodus 33:19-21, also look at Isaiah chapter 6. Yet God desires to live among His people - to "dwell" with them. The concept of the "shekina glory" of God contained within it the remaining presence of God. But how can the glory of God then be made known? The only way that sinful humans could avoid that death sentence for seeing God's glory was for God's glory to have some sort of veil, hence the veil at the entrance to the Holy of Holies in the Temple. The "veil of flesh" was God's way of accomplishing both purposes of revealing Himself in such a way that we could see Him and witness Him in action but not be destroyed by seeing Him in His full glory. It was an act of grace that He revealed Himself in this limited way. The only exception to this reality while He was on the earth in human form was when for a brief moment He revealed His full glory to Peter, James and John in the "Transfiguration" (Mark 9:2-9). To me the phrase "veiled in flesh the Godhead see" is one of the most inspirational phrases in the carols, because it refers to what John wrote in his first chapter, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." When John wrote, "we beheld his glory", he was giving a first-hand account of that transfiguration. And he knew full well how that glory had been veiled in flesh.

  14. Nathan

    I think this passage, as well as Hebrews 10: 19-20, speaks of a wonderful paradox. Jesus is both a veil and an unveiling. We typically think of Jesus only as the revelation of God, so how can we understand him to be a "curtain" to the sanctuary of the divine Presence. The clues, I think, have to do with us, more than with Jesus. Think about how we know things. Is it only "through the senses"? Think about intuition. Think about faith. Think about the unconscious. My proposal: Jesus came to reveal to us (through the senses) what we already know, but don't know we know, untuitively and unconsciously. This is why Jesus worked miracles, but complained that this generation would not believe unless it sees a sign. It seems he came to our senses but tried to draw us away from our reliance on them. Thus, his insistence on faith, which is a different way of seeing.

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