The Spirit of Christmas Past
The Spirit of Christmas Past
It’s time to set our thoughts on the incarnation. That’s a word you don’t usually hear. It means “in-flesh-ment.” The incarnation is God entering into human history as a human being. This, of course, is never fully explained in scripture. The incarnation is just taken as fact by faith, a mystery of God. Today we are going to try to grasp what has been done for us because of this mystery. We’ll start in the beginning, in the Garden in Eden, and move to what the followers of Jesus said about Him. What I hope you walk away with today is an understanding of the incredible gift that is offered to all humanity and draw near to God who has drawn near to you.
We read these words in the Beginning.
Genesis 1:26 - 28 & 31 (MSG)
God spoke: "Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature. …God created human beings; he created them godlike, Reflecting God's nature. He created them male and female God blessed them: "Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!... God looked over everything he had made; it was so good, so very good!
Humanity is endowed with the ability to respond to God through an intimate relationship. The man and the woman knew God. The New Testament tells us that salvation is knowing God (John 17:3).Salvation everywhere. The earth is right, everything working in harmony, nothing exists that is not in accordance with the will of the Creator. The man and the woman are given this commission: “Take Charge.” God makes them stewards over the creation. A steward is one who is entrusted with the task of caring for someone else’s property, someone else’s estate. Humanity is to be the stewards of the earth.
The story sadly goes on. In the 3rd chapter of Genesis, we discover that the man and the woman thought God was holding out on them. They believed a lie that they could be co-equal with God. They acted on that temptation and broke perfection. Their knowledge of God became veiled, their knowledge of one another became clouded, their knowledge of the earth lost, their knowledge of their very selves became confused.
As you continue to read the first 11 chapters of Genesis, because of this lack of knowledge the world sets on fire. We call it evil, we call it sin.
Genesis 6:5-6 (MSG)
God saw that human evil was out of control. People thought evil, imagined evil—evil, evil, evil from morning to night. God was sorry that he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart.
Continuing to read the scripture we see God’s intervention to bring humanity back into a right relationship with Him. God himself, makes a sacrifice for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). God saves a righteous man and his family, Noah, in an intervention to wipe evil and sin from the world (Genesis 6:8). God calls a man named Abram to obey (Genesis 12:1). From Abram comes the Hebrews, whom God calls his people (Genesis 3:6-10). Guidelines are given of God’s expectations on how people are to live as his children (Leviticus 26:3), God’s covenant with the Hebrews (Hebrews 8:6-13). Every plan is ruined by sin. Be sure some individuals get it, some gain a knowledge of God, but the majority still want to do what they want, when they want, with and to whom they want, without regard to the consequences.
So it is said humanity lives in darkness (John 3:19-20), falling short of God’s great intentions (Romans 3:23); ignorant of God, of others, of self, and of the earth (Romans 1:21-24). God’s dilemma is how to restore what was lost, how to repair what is broken without infringing on the free will of people that are created in His likeness; how to bring human beings back in a fellowship with Him?
The prophets of the Old Testament spoke of a day when God would make things right. They spoke of a new covenant, a different deal, a better way.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 (MSG)
The time is coming when I will make a brand-new covenant with Israel and Judah. It won't be a repeat of the covenant I made with their ancestors …. They broke that covenant even though I did my part as their Master."
"This is the brand-new covenant that I will make with Israel when the time comes. I will put my law within them—write it on their hearts!—and be their God. And they will be my people. They will no longer go around setting up schools to teach each other about God. They'll know me firsthand, the dull and the bright, the smart and the slow. I'll wipe the slate clean for each of them. I'll forget they ever sinned!" God's Decree.
God’s plan for reconciliation foretold, but how would it be enacted; how would it come to pass? How can all the evil and sin I have committed be forgiven? How can I be made as though I have never sinned? How can I have firsthand knowledge of God, like Adam and Eve? How can I have God’s will and God’s way written in my heart? It seems impossible. What a huge life change that would be! It would be salvation, escape from the darkness of ignorance. It would be becoming Free to be right and do right, to be a good steward, to love full and free again. It would be knowing God again, discovering who others really are and in this find acceptance and belonging and love, community, fellowship. It would be glorious. But how?
Hebrews believed that there is only one God. Judaism to this day remains monotheistic. One God. Yahweh the name no one is worthy to pronounce.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (MSG)
Attention, Israel! God, our God! God the one and only! Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that's in you, love him with all you've got!
Then this man named Yeshua ben Josef turns everything upside down. He is born around 4 BC in a town called Bethlehem, a little backwater village south of Jerusalem in what we call today the West Bank. His parents are among the working poor. He grows up in a place called Nazareth about 64 miles north of Jerusalem. He is about 30 years old when he begins to reinterpret the Jewish faith and performing signs, wonders, and miracles, to back up what he reveals about the Kingdom of God. 3 years later the Jewish ruling council called the Sanhedrin accuses him of blasphemy and presents him to the Romans who execute him on charges of sedition.
Blasphemy is speaking sacrilegiously about God. Profaning God, telling lies about God. Selected for your consideration are some of those lies according to the Jews that were written down by the followers of Yeshua ben Josef, whom we recognize by the name Jesus. Three of which are listed in your notes:
Mark 1:23-26; John 8:56-59;John 10:30 & 31-33
The reason I believe that what these followers of Jesus wrote is accurate is that all but one of them died because they refused to recant, to say it was all made up. You only put your life on the line for something you know to be true. I know you can believe in wrong causes, but when you read why these individuals believed, it’s mind-blowing. That story will have to wait till Easter. So here are some of the things written:
John 1:1 & 14(MSG)
The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, … The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
1 John 1:1-2 (MSG)
From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we're telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.
To Jewish thinking, you can’t have two Gods. Such a truth was inconceivable to both Jew and Gentile alike. They rejected Jesus’ revelation. Granted what Jesus taught was a mystery, how can the Father and the Son be one being?
You’re not the only one who has had a question like that. A follower of Jesus named Paul wrote about this mystery to a group of believers in the city of Philippi.
Philippians 2:6-8 (MSG)
He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.
Jesus is the one who set aside the privileges of deity. This event is called the incarnation. God becoming human, God with us. The only explanation of how this could occur is given to us in the writings by a doctor named Luke.
Luke 1:30-33 (MSG)
“…the angel assured her, "Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.
He will be great, be called 'Son of the Highest.' The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; He will rule Jacob's house forever— no end, ever, to his kingdom."
Luke 1:34-35 (MSG)
Mary said to the angel, "But how? I've never slept with a man." The angel answered, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you; Therefore, the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God.
Thus the ancient Nicene Creed reads We believe:
in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.
Today Christians believe in one God, revealed to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not three Gods, but One God, distinct but not separate. Truly “how” is beyond our comprehension. We have nothing we can compare this type of existence to. Yet this is what the New Testament proclaims.
God comes to us, God becomes human, the Creator becomes a Creature, so that we can once again have fellowship with Him, once again know the joy of knowing Him and with that knowledge know others, know ourselves and know the earth. A new deal, a new covenant, that all starts with the incarnation, the en-flesh-ment of God, with a baby born in a manger so long ago in the past.
The followers of Jesus wrote this:
John 3:16-18 (MSG)
"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it.
God comes to us, comes to you, in the birth of a baby, in an incarnation. Now in a new way you can know Him, and in that knowledge find salvation, being restored to a right relationship with Him. The invitation is simply—believe, believe and you can have a whole and lasting life, life to the fullest (John 10:10).
God is revealed to us in Jesus. I encourage you to draw near to the God who has drawn near to you, that you may know Him.