Have yourself a Merry Nicene Christmas

No, this is not one of those nerdy academic posts.  On this Christmas day I wanted to sketch out some brief thoughts over some observations I’ve made recently that really points to something broader I’ve witnessed in how we can make false choices with respect to the Christian faith. And particularly, this time of year with reflections of Christmas and the purpose for which we celebrate this unprecedented occasion of the incarnation. So I will get to the title in a bit.

Let me start with a gospel music production that we watched last night. The program was mostly music (and it was pretty spectacular too!) interspersed with acting scenes centered on three characters whose lives, we learn after awhile, are interconnected.  The overriding message I got was Jesus is a means to make your life better. If you have the Lord and tragedy happens you have the power to “speak life.” You feel empty? Try Jesus. You witnessed a miraculous event points to the fact that you need God.

What was missing for me in this presentation is why God the Son, eternally existent with the Father humbled himself and left his throne of glory. It was to rescue us from our sin, the sin that plunged humanity into sin because of the events that happened in Genesis 3.  This sin that we are all born into, that impacted all of God’s good creation into anticipated decay and ongoing corruption (see Romans 8:20). From Gen. 3:15 onward in the Old Testament, God promised a reversal of this curse. The incarnation was for the purpose of fulfillment of God’s promises to redeem a people for himself not so much to fulfill our every life demand. Continue reading

Christmas, Jesus and the ‘Other’

Kreider_God with us coverMy seminary professor, thesis advisor and friend has written a compelling book, recently released in time for this Advent season. In God With Us: Exploring God’s Personal Interactions with His People throughout the Bible, Dr. Kreider traces the biblical story of God’s intentional interaction with this creation through his self-revelation that demonstrates his care, concern and particularly outreach to those who seem the most unlikely to be recipients of his blessings. I plan on doing a full review of the book both on this sites and others I contribute to. But for the time being I thought it appropriate to highlight how this theme comes through in chapter 6, “The Everlasting Incarnation of the Eternal Son” that recounts the story of Jesus’ birth and is quite the timely read for the Advent season.

Dr. Kreider points out throughout the book, and in chapter 6 especially, how God reached out to those who seemed to be beyond the acceptable crowd. He notes in the genealogy;

The ordinariness of his [Jesus’] family tree is made clear, particularly in Matthew’s genealogy. Rather than ignoring the disreputable characters in Jesus’ heritage, Matthew names them…When Matthew names characters, those familiar with their stories remember the shameful details. Perhaps more importantly, we remember that in all of these stories, God shows his grace and mercy to people who are outside the community of faith. These sinners who receive divine grace make it into the community of faith. These women are part of Jesus’ family. The child comes from a long line of unlovely people. When he comes to earth, when he becomes human, he identifies with these outcasts in order to save those who are like them (see Heb. 2) (115-6)

He recounts the story of Jesus’ birth, familiar to so many but provides a fuller dimension than your typical Christmas pageant version and goes beyond the unsavory circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy. The announcement to the shepherds is really compelling considering who they were;

These shepherds were not the well-groomed, clean, mannerly men and women who appear in church Christmas pageants today. First century shepherds were dirty; they spent their time outside, in all kinds of weather, taking care of sheep. They were ceremonially unclean; caring for animals, they dealt with injuries, illnesses, and other matters related to animal husbandry…Like the magi–although at the opposite end of the socioeconomic spectrum–the shepherds were outsiders in Israel. The gospel is good news for outsiders and the disenfranchised, and on the day of Jesus’ birth this good news is announced to a representative group of this kind of people. (123)

Continue reading

Holiday Perfection and the Necessity of Christmas

christmas tree_warpedThe corner of my apartment where the Christmas tree goes does not allow for one of those full, perfect looking Christmas trees. In the past, I’ve tried to get that perfect tree but found that the hassle was not worth it and it would be better to get a narrow tree. Besides, I don’t like managing a big tree so transport is important also. Well, in my quest to obtain a low-cost, narrow Christmas tree, I ended up with something a bit more marred than I was comfortable with. When I first saw that big gaping hole at the bottom, I figured that against the corner you wouldn’t be able to tell. Of course I was wrong and the imperfection was very visible.

christmas tree_fig plantIt reminds me of a couple of years ago when I tried to cut corners by decorating our silk plant (fig tree as my son teenage son calls it) as a Christmas tree. Honestly, I laughed so hard at the results at this upside down Christmas tree and of course my son made fun of it. It was far from the picture of Christmas tree perfection that we want to display to the world.

Ah perfection…

I don’t know what it is about holidays that bring out our need to have this picture perfect model of the holidays

Perfect family photos

Perfect holiday decorations

Perfect gift giving

Perfect family gatherings

Perfect church festivities

Perfect, perfect, perfect Continue reading