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God with Us

What’s the Big Deal? The other side of Christmas.

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Christmas is in the air.

But what’s the big deal?

Even unbelievers know a little about the theological background to Christmas. The word is not known but the idea is there, hovering in the background: Incarnation.

Songs are sung about it this time of year.  Christmas cartoons and musicals allude to it. The nativity, showing Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus, implies such a condescending act by God.

Yet it is not unreasonable that many unbelievers would know little of the significance of the Incarnation given that Christmas is not a Biblical holy day. It is a time of fun and family that naturally overcomes any supposed religious imperative.

But even if unbelievers could mouth the word or explain it, the implications of the Incarnation completely elude them.  Like watching a play without a background and underlying plot, many unbelievers observe the nativity with a vague sense of something missing.

“What’s the big deal?” they ask.

Unfortunately, this question is asked because the message of Christmas is disappearing—not only due to the obvious chaos of narcissistic materialism, but also because of the increasing silence of the Church herself.

She is not always quiet about the Incarnation . Often the average American Christian affirms that Jesus is God. But that is not the same thing as affirming He existed from eternity past. Nor is it the same as affirming that in the fullness of time the Second Person of the Trinity “became flesh.”

To the extent that the proper background of the Incarnation is poorly explained, grasped or believed by the American Evangelical church, to that extent she is silent and unhelpful. She becomes a mime, acting out a story without a context.

And what is that context?  Sin.

Not only was the Coming of the God-man a marvelous act of a Sovereign King dwelling among infinitely lesser beings, it was more.  It was the merciful and forgiving act of a maligned Judge.  A Judge and Ruler having no reason to save any soul on their own merits. A Judge, Ruler and Avenger who did, would and will cast the final sentence against unbelieving rebellion: eternal damnation.

This is not a popular message. Unbelief would rather watch the miming of the church than hear the thundering of the Law.  It would prefer to embrace the psuedo-gospel of God-loves-everyone-and-is-sending-them-all-to-heaven instead of hearing that God’s law demands justice by sending rebels to their rightful place.

Yet this other side of Christmas is crucial.  And it makes sense. Human judges will dispense justice according to the rule of law.  How much more will the Great All-Seeing Judge of the Universe dispense justice?  And so, Adam was judged, as was all mankind, you and me included.  But that is not what unbelievers want to hear during this season of joy.

But it is exactly what they need to hear. And it is what we need to hear as well. The Incarnation is intelligible only in a Christian framework that takes sin seriously and rebellion as deserving of death.  There was nothing in mankind to bring amnesty from God the Judge.  There was everything in mankind to repel Him. This is the reason why the coming of the Son of God is amazing: He came to save sinners in spite of their sins.

Equipped with the full truth, the Church can stop miming and start singing aloud with joy the clear message of why the Messiah became a man.  And do so every Sunday. Then the world will know what the “big deal” is all about.



 

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