Why no other holy book, origin theory or philosophy is as important as one child’s birth in Bethlehem.
God changed humanity’s view of him in one moment by becoming completely personal, taking away all reasons to describe him as distant, uninvolved, uncaring or unconcerned.
This is why we have the divine touchdown in Bethlehem. In a moment, God became more personal and greater than we imagined. Here are a few thoughts that aren’t normally addressed in the typical Christmas message series and are relevant year-round:
1) God is personal. No religion, philosophy, or origin theory can match Jesus’ taking our form in humility, to reveal love. This is seen most clearly in the cross, but it begins the moment Mary says, “Be it to me according to your word.” God takes on human form, to serve us in love, his hands in the dirt with us.
This matters, because we are all relational. In fact, we are nothing if not relational, and the most relational, meaningful connector is God. This is why Jesus’ incarnation was necessary. This is why it continually defied religious and political expectations while transcending human ability.
2. God does the impossible. This is not a theory. “Miracles” are not metaphor; they happen in real time. The impossible cannot be reinterpreted as a detached spiritual reality we can achieve like a monk in a meditative state. God breaks in holistically, healing physical bodies, delivering us from powerless spiritual philosophizing, parting physical seas and breaking down dividing walls in heart and just war.
Of course, monks are great. Yet the kind of spiritual life modeled by Jesus (and then the twelve, the 72, the deacons of the early church and others) meant something in the physical world. Material needs were met by compassion in hands-on care which often resulted in supernatural demonstration. In essence, God cares enough to break in to impossible situations and surpass our expectations.
3. Maturity is a relational process. Perfection grows in relationship. Morality, character and authenticity form through open-hearted relationship with the Father. God.
This means “perfection” cannot come through disinterested detachment -- everything in God, his created universe and created humanity is interrelated and relational. Detachment, if we can use the word, finds its only context in submission to God’s love. It is a tool to get us back on track, not the track itself. Maturity and “being perfected” in Christ occurs within relationship with God and the world around us, not apart from these things.
Jesus modeled this, as he who was without sin was born as a baby. Not only did Jesus enter humanity in the form of a servant, but in complete vulnerability as a child. He, though perfect, grew in perfection. This means that spiritual growth is not sin management. Spiritual growth happens through our relationship with God, as we grow. Sin is the hinderance, not a source of nutrition, for spiritual growth. Seeing sin in our lives can motivate us to grow, but only God can bring growth.
“Presence” felt without the Person known is a fire without fuel; it can flash, it can impress, but it cannot live. Its warmth is fleeting, a tease. A cold emptiness is the spirituality which has taken on the language and tone of intimacy as a cloak while leaving the Persons of the Trinity. It is possible to leave God relationally yet hold onto him theoretically, theologically and experientially. Each of these paths are also unspiritual, definitively unchristian. (See: Matthew 7; 1 Corinthians 13; Revelation 3:14-22)
We grow cold, even if wrapped in the pretense of experience, “knowledge”, or loving others through justice. Eventually, the source of our spirituality will no longer be named “God”, but philosophy, politics, maneuvering, or people’s need.
All of these are temporary, unjust and cannot satisfy the human heart. It is possible to appear spiritual and not know the One Spirit; it is possible to be called “Christian” without being Christ’s.
When God calls us, he calls us in one direction. To himself.