The nativity scene can seem sweet, inspiring and utterly removed from our day to day experience of life in this broken world. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Step back and we find that in the beginning was The Word - a communicative being, who was with God. The Word is also called the Son, Jesus. And God is called the Father. Both are God. This is the Triune God. And from eternity past the Father has been giving the gift of himself to his Son and the Son likewise to his Father in self-giving, overflowing love in the Holy Spirit. Love that created the world, and love that steps in...
Sainsbury's Christmas advert is on the money - the greatest gift we can give is ourselves... though, you have to ask how that makes any sense in a secular material worldview? But through the lense of the Christian faith it makes perfect sense. In Biblical terms, it's love that is at the heart of the universe.
The Christmas story is the story of God with flesh on, God in meet, God becoming a human being. John writes in the opening of his biography of Jesus: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." Now, God dwelling is nothing new, the whole story of the Old Testament is a story of God dwelling with his people - this God is a God who dwells. And, the notion of God in flesh isn't exactly new either. The Old Testament tells of the coming of a son of Eve and a son of David to restore all things... the new thing in the New Testament is that the incarnation happens.
The song asks - what if God was one of us? And the Bible's response is... see for yourself, in the accounts of John, Mark, Luke and Matthew.
My God is so small and so weak, a vulnerable baby in a feeding trough. Or, as the 4th Century Egyptian pastor Athanasius brilliantly asks and answers:
"Why didn't Jesus come in more impressive form - as sun, moon, stars or fire? Why come as a mere man? Because he did not come to dazzle us but to put himself at the disposal of suffering people..."He turned up as one of us, a member of the human race not to dazzle us (as if we need more sparkly lights) but to put himself at our disposal. He makes himself available to needy suffering sinful humanity in exactly the way we need him to be.
In the Sainsbury's advert 'Dave' thinks he needs a clone to do his work so he can be with his family. What we need isn't someone to pick up the stuff we don't want to do but to live our lives and die our death for us. We need the head of a new human race....
"He did this so he could put us all to death by dying in our place... out of sheer love for us."The death of Jesus puts humanity to death to abolish death for us and bring us into his new resurrected humanity. Christmas and Easter go together. The story of the word become flesh is the story of a seed who came to fall into the ground so it could bear much fruit, of a man striding towards the hour of his death. A light walking in the darkness, among a people who corrupted God's dwelling place, a people under wrath, a people who can't shape up but rather need to die and be re-born, re-made.
And says John, the coming of God the Son as a member of the human race leads to the knowledge of the Father, and the adoption of any men and women who receive the Son into the family of God. Forever, familial, relational, participation in the life of God given to all kinds of people who receive the God who forever became one of us.
Image - Stefano Corso - Creative Commons