By L&T Columnist Gary Damron
Somehow this year, I needed the holiday celebration to last a little longer and was glad to see decorations still up in church on Sunday.
Christmas is about the birth of a baby, the Incarnation, the significance of which can’t be overstated. Matthew, Mark and Luke each begin with an account of the birth. John does too, though he goes much further back in time: “In the beginning was the Word…” (John 1:1).
The birth of Jesus and the theology of the Incarnation are good to read about and to understand, but more important is to know and apply what that signifies in our life. The coming of God in the flesh at Christmas means we can participate in life as it was created; even his name Jesus means, “God saves.”
The first words in the Bible are, “In the beginning God created…” Every living thing is made by him, both male and female. Some theories begin with a premise that relies on happenstance or chaos, and limits life to physical pleasure. Others such as Deists, Gnostics and Epicureans through the centuries have tried to explain creation otherwise, but with each, their god becomes smaller and unimportant.
The universe did not originate from nothing. Hebrews 11:3 reads, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” In Genesis, the only thing in God’s creation with a living soul is humankind, into whom God breathed his spirit and who was made in his image.
God is the source of all goodness, reserving special mercy for humans. He gave us grace – his own image, a reasonable mind, a will to choose. To stay in God’s image there were only two conditions placed on man – the Law (“don’t eat”) and the place (stay in Paradise, where God’s presence was felt). To Adam and Eve, however, the tree became so important to them they gave up the benefits. Corruption set in, and mankind has been dying ever since. The Apostle Paul explained, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
In my lifetime it’s shocking to see how far down the path of death and destruction we’ve gone. Young people today have more out there to trip them up than we ever dreamed. Society’s structured in such a way to draw people into self-gratification. Restoring the image of God within requires the gift that only the baby Jesus could deliver to our world.
Paul again wrote, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Romans 8:14). Referring to Moses and the manna that fell from heaven, Jesus told his followers, “’For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world’” (John 6:33), and then explained that He was that bread. God wants us to live lives incorruptible, set free from death and corruption which have dominion without him.
Paul in Romans 12:1 urged, “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice.” There are two parts to becoming holy – being set apart or presenting ourselves, the part that we do – and being purified, which only God can do. This new year, contemplate the Baby at Christmas. Practice his presence, reflect on the sacrifice of Christ, and accept His gift of new life.