The Nicene Creed (well, technically, it’s the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed...but that’s not nearly as sexy) is one of three ecumenical creeds that nutshells basic Christian beliefs and particularly hones in on the doctrine of the Trinity. This creed is more than a cobwebbed document that sits in a library; it is a living manifesto of the Gospel!
First established at the Council of Nicea in 325, the final stanza regarding the Holy Spirit was not appended until the Council of Constantinople in 381. Pneumatological theology had not been fully developed at the time of Nicea, especially because the council was focused on Christological heresy, in particular Arianism, who egregiously taught that the Son was created. But Arius was a charismatic and clever marketer, singing catchy musical jingles to declare that “there was a time when the Son was not.” As St. Athanasius and many of his opponents argued, if the Son was created, then he is less than the Father. Hence, the Nicene Creed was in a part an attack against Arius’ teachings, most directly shown in the line that Christ was “begotten, not made.” This is why the bulk of the Nicene Creed focuses on the work and nature of Jesus Christ.
The Creed parallels the Apostles’ Creed with a Colossians 1:15-20 twist. We see the cosmic Christ as the restorer of our relationships with God and we confess, as St. Anselm writes, why God became man. The Nicene Creed is the Christmas gospel; it explains the logic for and the nature of the Incarnation, celebrated during Advent, and looks ahead to the work he will accomplish for the Kingdom. As we read this ancient creed, we sit in wonder of the Incarnation – God becoming human in order to bring light and life into a dark and broken world.