Christmas and Doctrine

A significant portion of our culture is about to celebrate Christmas and that celebration will happen for any number of reasons, many of them having no connection to the religious meaning of Christmas.  I am not suggesting that celebrating Christmas for reasons other than Jesus’ birth is bad, meaningless, poor form or other such complaints.  I like Santa Claus, Rudolph, Frosty, the Grinch, Scrooge, decorating trees, putting up lights, Elf on a Shelf, A Christmas  Story etc. etc., but I would expect Christians to recognize the critical relationship between Christmas and doctrine.

Christmas is about the Incarnation which literally means that something became flesh.  In this case Christmas is about God invading our world and interrupting our lives in the form of a baby boy who grew up to become the God/man we know as Jesus the Christ.  The incarnation is powerful stuff.  This is not everyday news, it is truly good news.  The  incarnation was a one time historical event that inaugurated a new age punctuated by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and his promise to forgive and reconcile to God everyone who would trust in him.  It may seem an obvious observation but I will make it anyway:  no incarnation, no resurrection.

I find profound significance in the fact that Luke’s gospel does more than tell us about the birth of Jesus.  Far more powerful for me are the first two verses of chapter two.  These verses tell me that Jesus’ birth occurred during the reign of Ceasar Augustus when Quirinius was governor of Syria while a census was being taken throughout the Roman world.

These verses confront me with the fact that God is fully engaged with history, that history matters to God and not just the history connected to Jesus’ birth but all of history matters.  Our history matters to God.  The implication is that my life matters and your life matters and what we do with our lives matter.  The choices we make and the way we treat each other matters.  When Christians talk about knowing God through Jesus Christ they are not verbally and intellectually leaving the world and entering some spiritual realm.  They are claiming that their faith is rooted in this world, directly connected to it and that there are immediate and profound consequences for living a life committed to Christ.  Christians are claiming that history can and will be changed because of their faith in Jesus.  Of course we may not live as though God is at work in history but let’s at least be clear that’s what we are claiming.  Following Jesus is not  primarily about getting to heaven, it is about living a life that matters now.

That is why Christmas is about the incarnation when God decided not to live apart from us but to move into the neighborhood with us proclaiming His intent to change the world and its history through us.

“And that’s what Christmas is about Charlie Brown.”

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