Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life? Well suppose you could really have brought them to life. Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it.
What you would have done with that tin soldier I do not know. But what God did about us was this. The Second Person in God, the Son, became human himself: was born into the world as an actual man–a real man of a particular height, with hair of a particular color, speaking a particular language, weighing so many stone. The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a fetus inside a woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.
The Man in Christ rose again: not only the God. That is the whole point. For the first time we saw a real man. One tin soldier–real tin, just like the rest–had come fully and splendidly alive.
-C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Hebrews 1:3 tells us that the Son “upholds all things by the word of His power.” If the Son never ceased to be God, Hebrews 1:3 must remain true even at the time of His incarnation. So while Mary was holding her son, He was holding her–and the universe–together.
Athanasius (4th c.) articulated the paradox this way:
The Word was not hedged in by His body, nor did His presence in the body prevent His being present elsewhere as well. When He moved His body He did not cease also to direct the universe by His Mind and might. No. The marvelous truth is that being the Word, so far from being Himself contained by anything, He actually contained all things Himself.
. . . At one and the same time—this is the wonder—as Man He was living a human life, and as Word He was sustaining the life of the universe, and as Son He was in constant union with the Father. Not even His birth from a virgin, therefore, changed Him in any way, nor was He defiled by being in the body.
–Athanasius, On the Incarnation
Come and stand amazed, indeed.
Come and stand amazed, you people,
See how God is reconciled!
See his plans of love accomplished,
See his gift, this newborn child.
See the Mighty, weak and tender,
See the Word who now is mute.
See the Sovereign without splendor,
See the Fullness destitute;
The Beloved, whom we covet,
In a state of low repute.
See how humankind received him;
See him wrapped in swaddling bands,
Who as Lord of all creation
Rules the wind by his commands.
See him lying in a manger
Without sign of reasoning;
Word of God to flesh surrendered,
He is wisdom’s crown, our King.
See how tender our Defender
At whose birth the angels sing.
O Lord Jesus, God incarnate,
Who assumed this humble form,
Counsel me and let my wishes
To your perfect will conform.
Light of life, dispel my darkness,
Let your frailty strengthen me;
Let your meekness give me boldness,
Let your burden set me free;
Let your sadness give me gladness,
Let your death be life for me.
–Medieval Dutch carol, translated by Klaas Hart (1906-1973), as collected in Proclaiming the Christmas Gospel: Ancient Sermons and Hymns for Contemporary Inspiration (John D. Witvliet & David Vroege, ed.), p 99