“The Reason for the Season.” For many of us that could mean simply giving or for others being with family or others still seeing children stare in wonder at presents under the tree and act like wild animals as they try to unwrap every one. Perhaps there are some who see this reason as referring to the Nativity scene which was first created by St Francis where Jesus is featured as a heavenly figure in a manger with his parents, shepherds, wise men, animals, hay, and a few angels. For many Christians, the “reason” ends with a remembrance of a tiny baby Jesus in a manger and the faint echo of numerous Christmas carols which declare this child being born. However, what does this mean and why is it so incredibly important for Christians and non-Christians and all of creation for that matter?
I recently responded to a great post by a friend on the Christian Book Distributors website Academic Blog which covered a new biblical theology book on judgement. My response is about my friend’s post which connects Christmas and judgement, however, I elaborate a bit more on the connection. I have posted a link below to the post by my friend Matt Miller and my response to the post is given just below that. I invite all of you readers to follow the link first to read Matt M’s post and then read Matt G’s response below (Otherwise, out of context, it probably won’t make much sense. <– This has several layers of meaning to it. lol).
That said, I would simply like to thank those of you for reading and visiting my blog on faith and culture. I appreciate your support in reading, thinking about, and discussing these issues that I bring to attention. I pray that you all have a wonderful Christmas and that behind the unwrapped presents, the stockings hung with care, the ceaseless Christmas songs on the radio, etc., you all are enamored by the true reason for the season. I also pray that all of you are doing well and that your families and loved ones are alright this Christmas. Know that I am praying for you and your families.
December 16, 2010
Matthew C. Gladd says:
I appreciate, Matt M, how you connected this book to Christmas albeit in few words. There are undoubtedly many people around Christmas time including Christians who do not feel an overwhelming sense of joy, grace, and peace, but rather feel a sense of stress, frustration, wanting it to be over, and perhaps even outright pain for whatever the reason.
Not all Christians thumb through the recesses of St Athenasius’ ‘On the Incarnation’ as a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas in pure theology as I do. Many like to point to the “true meaning of Christmas,” however, that only seems to go to this sort of Talladega Nights nativity scene featuring the little baby Jesus that everyone thinks about as opposed to Christ taking on flesh being not only a cosmic event in and of itself being God incarnate, but being also a signpost directing us to the purpose of the incarnation – the death and resurrection. This is not to easily discount the life of Jesus which so many evangelicals tend to do because it is indeed an example of living a life of service to those who are in need to the point of dying for them.
Therefore, it is an ethical message in addition to one of great theological import. However, there is much more to what we as Christians celebrate on Christmas than the remembrance of a vulnerable little baby in a manger who appears like some sort of glo-worm in most renditions. The foundation of our faith as Christians is centered upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ which encompasses the mission of God in Christ in redeeming humanity and the world from the effects of the Fall by faith in the substitutionary death of his own Son despite our guilt and his blamelessness.
The trouble isn’t merely that many Christians think about a nativity scene and end their thoughts about the “true meaning” there, but the trouble is we are living in a post-Christian world where many people, Christians and non-Christians, are directed to God and the church during the Christmas season although their attention to things of the church quickly become frustration or hatred. The focus quickly turns not to the purpose of God in the incarnation, but to why so many focus on God being so good despite all the obvious suffering, death, and evil in the world around us.
Then, many begin to boast of a world that would be better without religion and all of us should be one, as John Lennon did and is literally praised for doing so. Lennon offered an alternate gospel, a false gospel that is people-centered and not God-centered. It is the Gospel without God in the picture and people doing all the work God does essentially. A less than perfect image in place of a wholly perfect God is hardly sufficient a substitute to right the wrong that humanity has wrought upon itself and all creation.
The problem is people neglect to see the problems in people. This false gospel that arises more and more every Christmas is all about putting our problems behind us and joining together for someone’s version of peace of earth. This is assuming people can or should put their problems behind them, or hide them.
Part of the beauty of the Gospel and the incarnation is that it is indeed a message of justice where God not only acknowledges the problems in people’s lives, he heals them. He changes them and transforms them into something so radically different that their true humanity comes out more and more as that individual seeks to imitate Jesus Christ and the evil in the individual’s life is put to death by the indwelling Spirit as a promise of God fulfilled and received by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
That is why I was excited, Matt M, to see your connection of this new biblical theology on judgement and Christmas. This is a connection that too few make today, but I believe that is a result of an inadequate view of judgement and a faulty view of the justice of God. Being one who greatly values reading biblical theologies for devotional reading (i.e. Paul House and Scott Hafemann), I am greatly looking forward to reading this one and appreciate your post. I am jealous of the discussions you are having with the author, James Hamilton Jr, but will be anticipating the interview.
grace & peace,