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Contemplating Christmas

Updated on March 14, 2013

Consider this; children's Sunday School classrooms all over America are adorned with images depicting Noah's Ark - this was a devastating world-wide flood. The point of the ark was to save Noah, his family, and some animals - but many, many more people and beasts were drowned. This doesn't really seem like the kind of story to decorate a child's classroom with, but familiarity alters our perception of things . . . knowing the story since childhood, the fluency we have at recounting the march of animals two by two into the ark makes the extraordinariness of the event appear almost ordinary, and we neglect the horror of the deluge altogether. What becomes a commonplace knowledge to us we abandon contemplating.

The account of the birth of Jesus, I believe, falls very squarely into this class of familiar knowledge. We see, in our mind's eye, the star, the three kings traveling across deserts, shepherds, the manger, and an infant Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, etc - but what really happened here, and what idea is more calling for our contemplation than this? The words may come easy; 'God's Son was born', 'God took upon Himself human nature', 'God became a man', etc, and theologically, 'the incarnation', 'the virgin birth', etc - but the idea, while beyond our capacity to grasp, must be pondered over. What did God do, what step did God take, when Jesus was born?

The Bible tells us that God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life, and man became a living soul . . . that word "breath" is the same word translated "Spirit" - God breathed His own Spirit into man and the joining of a material body and a living spirit produced a soul . . . God didn't make man a soul-being, God made him a physical body and breathed His Spirit into him and he became a living soul. So, the question comes to us, did the eternal, infinite, divine God have a soul prior to the incarnation, prior to the birth of Jesus?

Now, we know from Scripture that God is unchanging, that He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow - but, we also know that God also exists in eternity, apart from linear time and that change can only take place within time. If there is no time, if existence is an ever present now, an ongoing instant, then change makes no sense. So, the eternal, infinite, divine God never changes - however, God created time, and in the fullness of time God stepped out of eternity and into time and took upon Himself a material, human body . . . when He did that, did the very nature of God, in some manner, change forever? Did God become something He was not before the birth of Jesus, did God become or acquire a soul?

The answer, of course, is that this is way beyond our faculties to resolve, this is a matter of negotiating a harmony between time and eternity and apprehending the very nature of the infinite God Himself, and is simply not within our capacity to understand. But the question brings to our mind the enormity of what was happening that first Christmas. God became man - we cannot reflect on that idea enough. Now, this may be a bit too science fictiony for some, but please stay with me and try to consider; say, as you went about working in your backyard garden you became fond of following the progress of a nearby ant hill, and say you became distressed as you saw them being assaulted by raiding grasshoppers . . .

. . . now, suppose you knew that ants were apt at defending their colony against grasshopper attacks, but that these ants had apparently forgotten just how to do that. Now, leaping past any storyline of invented gizmos or magical amulets, suppose you could leave your humanity behind and take on the form of an ant, suppose you could become a ant yourself to aid the threatened bugs and rescue them from their devouring enemy. These ants aren't asking for help but in fact you know they will resist it when you offer it, and they aren't contributing to the success or beauty of your garden but are in fact damaging it - yet you determine to help them anyway.

What would your experience be? Seeing the world through bug eyes, is there color, depth - is it dizzying to you? Walking on bug legs - is it nauseating to you? Having ants all around you, crawling across and underneath you - is it horrific? Living within an ant body, with an ant perception of your environment and an ant metabolism, eating ant food, etc, etc. What did God do becoming man? Stepping down out of an eternal spirit realm to have His infinite being contained in a flesh and bone body, treading down an endless path from heaven to earth, looking through feeble eyes and standing on delicate legs - standing on ground. Getting weary, hungry, cold. What did God do when Jesus was born?

Now remember this; God came to us, became one of us, to die . . . to be killed by us. He came to redeem those He knew were going to mock Him, spit on Him, pluck-out His beard, flog Him, and execute him. Yet He came. God, became born of a woman . . . an infant dependant of the care of others. The eternal, infinite God, who created and moment by moment sustains all that exists, became a man. Forget about the accuracy of the date, forget about it's pagan borrowings, forget about it's over commercialization - this Christmas, contemplate what God did, contemplate what Christmas (remembering and celebrating the birth of Jesus) really is ~

Merry Christmas

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