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We Have Seen His Glory

Christmas Carol: The Holly and The Ivy

The Cost of the Incarnation

by Mark Cook

The season of Advent is an invitation to bask in the profundity of the incarnation of Jesus. God coming to earth, becoming flesh. The "great condescension," as various saints have beautifully described it. It is a truth that transcends our ability to describe it with words, and so, thankfully, we have symbols to help us in this endeavor. One that meets us in this ineffable space, and which nudges us into deeper worship and adoration of Jesus, is the symbol at the heart of this oft-forgotten Christmas hymn: the holly and the ivy.

The holly, that prickly plant that stings the tender flesh of your hand when you touch it but also draws our eyes to those magnificent bursts of color in the tiny red berries. The stinging aspect of the prickly leaves reminds us of the crown of thorns our Jesus would have foisted upon his head, as this "man of sorrows, acquainted with grief," carried the weight of all darkness and evil to the cross of Calvary. The bright red berries remind us of the blood He would shed on our behalf.

This beautiful plant, in all its simplicity and grandeur, reminds us of the mission of our Savior, whose great love compelled him to take on our flesh and interpose His own blood for ours.

This is the place where the second symbol comes to meet us. This Savior, Jesus, who came as a baby, offers us eternal life. That is what the ivy reminds us. It is, of course an evergreen plant, green all year long. The living Word who became flesh, Jesus, offers us the greatest gift we could ever imagine. His "great condescension" is our great ascension. We are made new forever, transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of Jesus.

All great Christian symbols remind us of truths beyond our reckoning. Let us allow this simple Christmas symbol to remind us of the great cost of the incarnation, the wonderful promise of eternal life, and the grace and love that meet us in Jesus, carrying us through every station of our lives.

Click the play button above to hear "The Holly and The Ivy" performed by Sarah Hurst

Recording Engineer: Sarah Hurst | Traditional English Carol | Arranged by: Sarah Hurst

Mark Cook, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies and Leadership at Dallas Baptist University, is a current Ph.D. in Leadership Studies student with a concentration in Ministry Leadership.

Sarah Hurst graduated with a Music Business degree from Dallas Baptist University.

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