Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas and God's Vindication

It was unworthy of the goodness of God that creatures made by Him should be brought to nothing
through the deceit wrought upon man by the devil; and it was supremely unfitting that the
work of God in mankind should disappear, either through their own negligence or through
the deceit of evil spirits. As, then, the creatures whom He had created reasonable, like the
Word, were in fact perishing, and such noble works were on the road to ruin, what then
was God, being Good, to do? Was He to let corruption and death have their way with them?
In that case, what was the use of having made them in the beginning? Surely it would have
been better never to have been created at all than, having been created, to be neglected and
perish; and, besides that, such indifference to the ruin of His own work before His very eyes
would argue not goodness in God but limitation, and that far more than if He had never
created men at all. It was impossible, therefore, that God should leave man to be carried off
by corruption, because it would be unfitting and unworthy of Himself.
-Athanasius of Alexandria, On the Incarnation

By the majority of accounts, Athanasius was a 1st class pastor and bishop in addition to being a premier scholar in his day.  It's not hard to see how his passion for ministry was well-suited to his theological perspective by any examination of the quotation above.  For Athanasius, the very impulse by which God seeks to right the wrongs of sin and death in the physical universe isn't just for His own vindication.  But God's divine determination to demonstrate His holiness and His great love for us are ball and socket of one and the same joint.  

Christmas is celebrated all over the world, but in the Church, we worship God for taking on flesh.  This is the doctrine called "the Incarnation" (and it also includes something called "The Hypostatic Union" which is creatively explained by Shai Linne).  The Spirit-God, according to His own wisdom and purpose made the physical universe.  And in doing so, Athanasius argues, He was making a commitment to care for and maintain it.  Although He created an image-bearer to act as His agent on earth, God was still ultimately sovereign and would ultimately respond, as it were, to the blunder of man and the belligerence of the Enemy. 

Despite man's sin, God was unwilling to "let corruption and death have their way" with man and the universe.  So, God entered into His creation to ultimately right it's wrongs and history a monumental chapter change in the story chronicling  the outbreak of God's Kingdom in Christ's birth.  God had already been active in the steady march against sin, but in Christ, He had turned up the momentum and was surely set on defeating the Devil, sin, and death itself by the Cross and Resurrection.  John Donne in the Book of Uncommon Prayers puts it like this:  "His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of one and the same day.  From the [cradle] to the cross is an inseparable line.  Christmas only points forward to Good Friday and Easter."    

This Christmas, I am encouraged.  I am reminded that God is entirely engrossed and engaged in overcoming the deepest problems in my life.  Because of Christmas, I know that God is not just winking at sin in my body, but is sure to defeat it.  And since I am His, I'm to cooperate with Him as a dutiful son, industrious "about my Father's business".  Despite my own failures, I know that He will not fail, nor will He forsake me; for He cannot forsake Himself, nor will He suffer losing me to another.  His glory is my comfort and assurance for He is committed to His glory and to His elect.

Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth.  Good will to men on whom His favor rests.  


  1. That was a beautifully written final summary. Indeed, it is very encouraging. And thanks for the reminder!