Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Christmas . . .

It's Christmastime, so this, herefore, is the obligatory Christmas post.

To sum up Christmas would be to say Christ was born, that He stepped down from Heaven, and was born to die for us.
It couldn't be truer. But to say that's an adequacy would be a gross misunderstanding of Christ and His purpose.
To say He merely died for us scarcely does justice to what He truly did. To say He merely performed miracles would be an understatement. To say anything of the like, actually, would be as saying the moon just gives light at night. Yes, that's one thing it does, and that's the most plain and simple thing it does. The miracles, though supernatural, were not just miracles.
The moon causes tides, affects winds, weather, seasons, gravity, animals' behavior, growth of plant life, and so much more. The most obvious effect we can observe, though, is light, so we say it shines in the night. But the fact, and the beauty of it, is that the light is hardly worth noting in comparison to the rest.

To say Christ just gave up His life for us is overlooking so much, though it's the most visible quality of it, so that's what we often focus on.
Anyone can die for another. Many do. Soldiers give their lives daily for their home, friends, and family. People lose their lives in dangerous workplaces trying to provide for their families.

John 15:13 says the all-so-familiar quote of, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."
And that's true. Nothing we can do can be more significant a gesture of love than the self-sacrifice of the greatest cost for the cause of preserving another. But this is a human limitation. Jesus is speaking of the greatest thing a "son of man" can do. This is the greatest gesture of love His mortal shell could express.
But He is, while fully man, also fully God. And the eternal, infinite God can -and did- sacrifice so much more than these temporary, finite shells we live in on this earth can.

Philippians 2:5-8 says, "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

Firstly, our way of thinking should not be to count Him as a mortal dying on a cross. That's only what's going on at the very skin of it.
Have this mind, instead, that Christ was in the form of God; the infinite, eternal, almighty, exalted, and untouchable Ruler of the universe.
Have this mind that He gave that up, not counting that nature as something to be had but to be laid down for your sake.
Have this mind that He not only gave that up, but came as a slave, humbled, ruled by men, and given up to suffer every temptation -and more- than we know.
Have this mind that He was obedient, unquestioning, while being beaten and spit on, whipped (not to be overly graphic, but He was whipped with a "Cat of Nine Tails," which was a nine-stranded whip with shards of glass tied into the ends which stick and must be ripped out; the skin of His back and sides would have been literally torn off with great force, exposing His bones and perhaps more), and then nailed, naked, to a cross which was reserved for thieves, murderers, and absolute degenerates. Left to die. In the name of God. In the name of the God that we didn't recognize--Himself. He was killed in the name of Christ.
Have this mind that He suffered through Hell, infinitely worse than the torture He endured here on earth where His physical body eventually died.

This is what He knowingly gave up for us. Not just His physical life, but He went from one absolute to the other. That was His purpose. To give up everything out of a love greater than we can fathom, greater than the mere laying down of one's life.
The miracles were not just miracles. They were the fulfillment of everything prior to His birth; four-thousand years of prophecy brought into fruition. Four-thousand years of Law embodied. Four-thousand years of man that cried out for a Savior.

This is what Christmas is. It's not just the birth of Christ. It's the conception of hope for mankind, it's the dawn of eternity birthed within us, it's the glory of God walking among -and living within- us. It's God with us. Immanuel! 

I may seem a Scrooge at times around Christmas, but only because our modern images and traditions (namely Santa Claus) take from the glory due to God. But how little can be taken from Him! All creation sings His praise, and the Heavenly beings cry out "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"