The Christmas Gift

“Jesus is the Reason for the Season” – we’ve all seen & heard this phrase in recent years but in practical/no-nonsense terms, what is most poignant to this season is actually a question, “Why was Jesus born?”  Which has a very simple answer: Because broken humanity needed a Savior.

And this is when the other popular phrase we are all familiar with becomes pertinent: John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. When the apostle John (one of the twelve disciples of Jesus) wrote this at the end of the first century, this concept was a radical statement (unfortunately, we’ve become a little callused to it, seeing it in such unlikely places as placards at football games, etc.!).  But it was A REVOLUTIONARY idea that THE God (there were many in the Roman culture so the idea of only one was also revolutionary) could make such a sacrifice (his ONLY son – not created!) on behalf of mankind (created beings) was MIND-BENDING and that this God did it out of LOVE and for the whole world (not just a chosen people), well, it was a lot for the ancients to think about.

What a beautiful concept – God reaching out to us in our darkness by making his light human, rending himself; the source of eternal life, experiencing, then healing our Spiritual death.

Jesus revealed to his disciples/students (and through them to the world), that because of human-nature’s fall in the garden (when we became Spiritually dead to God’s fellowship, in which we have our purpose for living), God had set a plan in motion from the very beginning: John 3:16 – God redeemed mankind through his baby boy, his son, born to a poor family and laid in that humble manger and whose life, 33 years later would became a ransom for our restoration through his crucifixion on a cross & his conquering death through his resurrection.

An “eye for an eye” justice is an Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures concept.  It is another phrase we are familiar with and its original premise was of returning things to exactly the way they were before the injustice. It is perfect restoration, and when it comes to the state of man’s broken spirituality, it is beyond man’s capacity to achieve.

…but it isn’t for God…

So, through perfect love, a perfect life was given for the perfect life mankind gave up; Christ’s perfect life allows a way back, the only way back to a relationship with God.  When St. Augustine refers to this (see the quote at the end of the page), he is drawing people’s attention to this scripture: ‘Jesus said to him, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

In the New Testament of the bible is the verse Romans 8:15 written by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians located in Rome: “… but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

The word Abba is similar to our word: Daddy.  What the writer, Paul, is stating is that the Creator of the Universe can, through his son’s sacrifice, accept us as an adopted child, no longer just created, and now we can call him by so intimate a term as “Daddy!”

C.S. Lewis, a noted 20th century apologetic who is best known for his children’s books: the Narnia series, makes this profound observation (noted in his work: Miracles, in chapter 11: “Christianity and ‘Religion’”.):
“An ‘impersonal God’ – well and good.  A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads – better still.  A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap – best of all.  But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband – that is quite another matter.  There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (‘Man’s search for God!’) suddenly draw back.  Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that!  Worse still, supposing He had found us?…”

God loves you passionately; if you don’t know this, don’t take my word for it, just ask Him.  He is a whispered or silent prayer away.  But as C.S. Lewis implied, He is an intimate God and not a God of our invention.  He is wild and passionate, and in your face, free from our definitions of how we think he should be; those petty assumptions of ours – every time we want to apply the human attribute of an adjective to him, it WON’T apply, because ultimately, God is Holy/Perfect.  The only way we can even begin to get beyond our incapacity to understand him, is to accept him as he is… to have the faith that he knows what is best for us, and that although we may think we are perfect (as far as humans go we’re really not that bad, right?) that our effort isn’t enough nor will it ever be enough to allow access to his state of perfection… only his effort is enough and that was the cross and the reason for this season: his gift to mankind.  If you haven’t already: Make an acceptance of his Christmas gift.  Pick it up; it’s at your feet and now, … with that gift clutched firmly to you, lay down your pride at the manger and at that cross.  It is the only gift-exchange he wants, as stated: our efforts for being perfect can’t suffice.

To rephrase some of St. Augustine’s quote: it isn’t UNTIL we find ourselves weary at last & laid low (basically, sick of ourselves and our condition), that we are able to accept the lowly Jesus as our God.  He lays at OUR feet, humbled by taking on our human condition, in order to heal the “disease” of our pride, & to foster our love, so that our swollen, self-serving pride might grow no further but rather diminish altogether, that we would instead rise with him, restored by HIS conquering of death.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:9-13

Merry Christmas!

St. Augustine quote: (From: Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers by © Christopher A. Hall, page 123 Augustine Confessions 7.18, cited in Groeschel, Augustine: Major Writings, p.27 (modified by Christopher A. Hall).
“So I set about finding a way to gain the strength that was necessary for enjoying You.  And I could not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus, who is over all things, God blessed forever, who was calling to me and saying: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life…For I was not yet lowly enough to hold the lowly Jesus as my God, nor did I know what lesson his embracing of our weakness was to teach.  For Your Word, the eternal Truth, towering above the highest parts of your creation, lifts up to Himself those that were cast down.  He built for himself here below a lowly house of our clay, that by it He might bring down from themselves and bring up to Himself those who were to be made subject, healing the swollenness of their pride and fostering their love: so that their self-confidence might grow no further but rather diminish, seeing the deity at their feet, humbled by the assumption of their human nature: to the end that weary at last they might cast themselves down upon his humanity and rise again in its rising.”

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