"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Saturday, December 23, 2006

What Is Christmas About (III)

When I was young(er), Christmas was all about the presents. I would shake the boxes and do all kinds of other things to try to figure out what I had gotten for Christmas. Heavy and odd shaped boxes were best, because it meant it wasn't clothes.

I still remember one Christmas when I wanted a new bicycle - a five speed. But there was nothing under the tree that remotely resembled a bicycle. By the time we opened presents, I resigned myself to not getting a bicycle. My birthday's in the spring, so a bicycle made more sense as a birthday gift. Sure, I was disappointed, but after opening presents I got busy playing.

It was around this time that Dad requested I go get a blanket out of the back of the station wagon (yep, Dad drove the 60's and 70's equivalent of a minivan pretty much the entire time I was growing up). I didn't want to go outside. There was some snow on the ground and I had new toys with which to play. But he insisted, so out I went. I'm not sure exactly when I realized that the blanket was covering my new bicycle, but I still remember the smile on Dad's face as a reflection of my joy. We were sharing a moment. That bicycle and the other presents are gone, but the shared memories and the shared connections with family still remain.

Christmas is about sharing

That's why at a relatively young age, I stopped having to be the first one to open my gifts, and started being the one who passed them out. Strange as it sounds to our society (Acts 20:35), "It is more blessed to give than to receive." When we exchange gifts, we are sharing something of ourselves with each other. And that's a good thing, because sharing is at the heart of what Christmas is about.

Whether we have the date right or not, Christmas celebrates Christ's birth. It is a commemoration of the Son of God sharing our nature. He is Immanuel, God with us, as I noted earlier. John (1:14) says "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." The anonymous author of Hebrews tells us (Hebrews 2:14-18) that:
14Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
We share in flesh and blood, so He became flesh and blood. He was made to be like us. Even though from eternity He had been with the Father, and equal to the Father, Jesus humbled Himself and shared in human flesh. Paul, in Philippians 2:5-11, says this about Jesus sharing our nature:
5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
God the Son continues to share our nature. He did not give up His human nature in the resurrection. He continues to have a human, albeit glorified, body. Christmas is about the divine sharing in humanity.

But Christmas is also about humanity sharing in Christ. Those who believe in Jesus share an inheritance with Him, that is true. But we do so because we share in His righteousness. Between His birth and His death, Jesus kept the Law perfectly. Unlike Adam, who failed to obey God, Jesus, the last Adam, obeyed God to the uttermost. Therefore, those who are in Christ have a righteousness (an alien and imputed righteousness) that makes us acceptable to God.

In 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul says that "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." Some might want to say that we "become" the righteousness of God, meaning that God changes us so that we do righteous deeds and are faithful. While everyone who comes to Christ is a new creation, that is not what Paul means here. That he intends us to understand this righteousness to be a shared righteousness with Christ can be seen in the first Corinthian epistle (1 Corinthians 1:30) where he writes, "He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption." Here Paul is clearly saying that Jesus is our righteousness and we are righteous because we share in His work. Let me emphasize this point: the Father looks on us and declares us righteous because we share in Christ.

Therefore, since Christmas is about God giving, God loving, and God sharing, I have just a few words of conclusion that I hope to post early Christmas morning.

Have a very blessed Christmas!

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