Earlier this year, I set out to make Christianity a little more accessible–to present the faith without appealing to too many abstractions, complications, paradoxes, and caveat. Over the year, I have written twenty times on Monday’s Christian, the simple everyday work of life after Sunday, and for all of that, I can do no better than to tell the Christmas story.
God–creator of all things that were, and are, and ever will be–became one of us–a limited, confused, and mortal human. God with us (“Emmanuel”). Christianity has not (and perhaps will not) solve the problem of evil, why bad things happen to good people in this world. We may never understand (in this lifetime) why the world is as it is, but we know that God is in it with us. God was incarnate as a human; he lived, loved, suffered, and died as one of us.
This was Jesus of Nazareth, a poor baby in a manager, a carpenter, a rabbi, a prophet, and at the last a sacrifice to human politics. Jesus did not use his Godhead to overpower us or even awe us into submission. God the human being came to us as a friend and companion.
And so we know that our salvation does not come from above–from some abstract realm of perfect knowledge or from a repudiation of our humanity–it comes from our incarnation, from our being as God made us. God made us as we are so that God’s Holy Spirit might dwell within our flesh and within our communities, and even (painful though it may be) within our politics. This is the world God made. And, in case there was any doubt, we can turn to the resurrection. After dying in the flesh, Jesus returned in the flesh. His resurrected (and still living body) was one of flesh and blood.
I can–and have–made a theological point of this, but today I want to make a very personal point. You are as God made you. Does that mean you are perfectly good? No. Sorry, it’s not that easy. It does mean that your salvation comes from where you are. You, like Jesus are enfleshed, incarnate, and prone to sin and suffering. (Prone to, not compelled by.) You like Jesus can be open to the Holy Spirit acting within you.
God became like you and asked you to be his–his friend, his disciple, his love. This is Christianity–that God seeks relationship with us. And we, his disciples seek relationship with one another. It is not some distant kingdom to be achieved, it is not some doctrine to believe or some act to perform. It is a relationship, between us and the God who was (and still is) one of us (as well as the Lord Most High).
This is the world that the Lord has made. Though we may wish to live in another, we do not. Though we would have designed it differently (or think we would) it was never our world to design. Christians through the ages have sung “I’ll fly away,” seeking a better world, a perfect world, different from this one. But God chose this world. God made it and joined us in it. There is a time to dream of other worlds, but there is also a time to revel in this one. To celebrate what it is and what it can be.
Love one another this holiday season.
There is no one else to love.
The Kingdom of God is coming to be in this world.
It started with the birth of Jesus to a poor family in a Roman backwater.
It continues in the church and in all those who serve one another in His name and in the name of love.
This is the world that the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.