Monday, December 1, 2014

Tree Trimming #1: The Incarnation as Trinitarian Enterprise

Ornament #1 is the Triquetra, aka the "Trinity Knot".  

"The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." Luke 1:35 (NIV)

When it comes to celebrating the holiday we call Christmas, I've been on both sides of the fence.  Growing up, I was like most kids and found excitement in Santa, the presents under the tree, and time off from school.  Sure, I went to Mass, enjoyed singing Christmas carols and loved Linus' scripture quotations from Luke's gospel in the Peanuts Christmas Special but Jesus wasn't center stage for me.  What I could milk the holiday for--THAT was center stage for me.

My shallow view was due to seeing only the holiday itself and not the biblical truth around it.  Say what you will about December 25th and it's pagan roots.  I know some believers who are sincerely troubled by the fact that many, if not most Christians celebrate it.  But disputes over the special nature of particular days is nothing new in the church (see Romans 14:5-8).  Whatever your position is on the day, all Christians simply must agree that the Incarnation--the revelation of the divine Son of God in human flesh--is certainly worth celebrating.  When Christians celebrate Christmas, we should be highlighting the Incarnation (and it's purpose) as the central focus.

Some, however, will continue what is often the uncharitable debate over whether or not to embrace December 25th with all the pagan mystique surrounding it.  Some will continue to embrace childish self-absorption in what they can get out of the holiday.  But perhaps the greater sin isn't the fighting or selfishness but the failure to see the cosmic effects of the Godhead's awesome design.  The incarnation is FOR us, but it's not ABOUT us.  It's about God.  In this 1st of 25 ornaments, let's start with Him.

The Father: The Incarnation highlights the lavish love that is entailed in the giving of His One and Only Son; the One Who was at His bosom.  The Father spared no expense to save rebel sinners.  As it is written, "But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons" (Galatians 4:4-5).  It is through the Incarnation that the Father has adopted us into His family.

The Son:  Illustrating the extent of His loyal love and obedience to His Father, the Son, our Lord Jesus, condescended to live among us.  It's probably impossible to do better Philippians 2:5-11 which describes how Christ "made Himself of no reputation taking the form of a bond servant... He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."  The inevitable presence of the manger scenes should be celebrated... but not at the expense of forgetting the Calvary's Cross which was the reason He came.

The Holy Spirit: Often considered The Trinity's "shy guy", the Holy Spirit features quite prominently in the Incarnation and birth of Christ.  The writer of the book of Hebrews does something very interesting with Psalm 40:6-8: he puts those words in the mouth of Christ (see Hebrews 10:1-7).  The "prepared body" referenced in the passage is the literal body of the historical man, Jesus of Nazareth.  There are many questions that we have today about the birth of Jesus.  But in Luke's account, the chief question is "How can this be since I do not know a man?"  Answer: the Holy Spirit prepared the body of our Lord Jesus.

I thought I'd tackle the heavy theological issues up front--before too much fruitcake, eggnog, fruitless romance flicks that pass for "Christmas movies" take up too much space in your psychological/mental hard drive.  Before too many details on your shopping list crowd your vision, pause to ponder a mystery for the ages.  With your mind's eye don't glance, but gaze upon scripture's picture of this season's enormity.  Bare witness once again--or maybe even for the first time--the master plan of our Triune God evidenced by the Babe born in Bethlehem Who came "for us men and for our salvation".

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