Sunday, December 23, 2012
Sunday message- what is Christmas, and why do we need it?
This is a long and complicated message that I will have to brutally pare down to a managable level. Fortunately, it really just ties together all the other Sunday messages, so if you look through them long enough- or have read them as we've gone- it shouildn't be too hard to follow. But it struck me that a person might ask, "What is Christmas for? Why did we need it? Why did it have to be done through a virgin birth, or through birth at all?" Valid questions that in our rush to buy presents and hang up lights, we fail to meditate on.
To answer them, we must start at the beginning. When Adam was created, he was the most perfect human being who would ever live. He had two things that no one else outside of Eve will ever have in this life- a glorified, incorruptable, immortal body, and direct access to God. How do we know he had all that? Because that's what he lost when he sinned. He lost access to God, found himself in a corrupted body that he instinctually knew he had to hide (not because his parts were showing, but because they no longer reflected the Glory of God), and he was now subject to disease, hunger, and death. If he was going to fail, any of us would have failed. God knew this. He didn't will it, but He planned for it.
Because if God wanted perfect beings that would never fail, they would have lived in heaven from the start. Earth was a place that had a potential to be perfect- but was seperate from heaven, so that it could also hold the potential for failure. God already had beings that could believe because they were in heaven daily- He called them Angels. (And ain't it interesting that some of them fell, as well?) The point being, He wanted creature that would seek Him through and in spite of faiures. And He could have saved them right there and then, with a snap of His fingers- but Salvation is not Welfare. He asked them to work at it.
So first, He gave them a chance to seek Him on thier own. Despite holy men like murdered Abel, Seth, and Enoch (so great a teacher that he became one of two men to never taste death), man fell and fell until his nature brought him to destruction in the Flood. Having proved to man that wasn't going to work, he then step by step built a special treatment, tried them in the fires of Egypt that they might perceive both a need for God and His power, and then gave them a Law to follow. That they were not the equal of even Adam was born out by the fact that they nearly messed up the whole thing before Moses could even bring them the Law.
As Paul would eloquently put it centuries later, the Law was given to prove to man that even with a set of rules, he couldn't make it right with God. They couldn't even understand them properly. Commandment #1- I Am the Lord Your God, who brought you out of Egypt. You shall not have strange gods before Me. This was not about idols, or else you wouldn't need commandment #2 about graven images. This was about making God the most important thing in their lives. The second was about not putting the things that everyone else thought was more important in front of God. The third was not just about Honoring your parents, but a lesson in respect and responsibility, and how honor means putting the needs of someone else before your own. And the fourth wasn't just about a day set apart, but why it was set apart. The Pharisees messed up when they put the part about "no work shall be done" ahead of what should be done- namely, taking care of the first three commandments. Do I really need to hit the "Thou shalt not"s?
The result of this was that they failed, and as promised, this resulted in the destruction of all but of a remnant of this special people who had witnessed God so clearly and so closely and still rejected Him. Now we get to the final chapter, and the answers to the questions we asked above.
That final chapter was that God would have to do what men could not. The problem was sin, and it is important to realize that there are three kinds of sin. The first was Adam's original failure, the initial rejection of God. This resulted in his fall to a mortal body, and as a mortal body could not produce the immortal, incorruptable body he started with, it meant that this sin would be passed down to all men through the very act of procreation and childbirth. From this original sin we get corrupted bodies with their pride, greed, and lust- in other words, all our petty little daily sins (the second category) are part and parcel to this first one. Now, God showed in the Law that a sacrifice- an unblemished lamb or goat- would suffice to clear out the day to day stain of sins, but would not prevent them from re-occuring because the ORIGINAL sin was untouched, and would lead us into further corruption. A different kind of sacrifice would be needed here.
And an animal wouldn't do- it would have to be a man. But not a man from Adam's seed, because that would be a man blemished with the corruption of original sin. How do you make a man without original sin? You need a birth without Adam's seed being involved- a virgin birth.
But it would have to be more than a man. Even Adam in his once-glorified form wouldn't do, since he was flawed enough to have committed the sin in the first place. No, it would have to be God. But if God cannot bear sin, how could He become the sacrifice?
He had to be man- subject to all the corruption, disease and hunger, all the lusts and failings- yet able to resist them, because He didn't have that original sin curse. Thus, Jesus became man, but without man's sin nature. But in becoming man, He had to give up the attributes of God that made sin anethema, otherwise He could have never borne the sin weight on the Cross. So Jesus was man without man's sin nature, and God without God's divine nature.
All of that meant that we had to have a Christmas, with a virgin birth in a manger. For Christmas was the crucible in which a new Being was "created"- human enough to bear the weight of Adam's sin, Divine enough to expiate it. With His sacrifice, the curse of original sin is lifted- not so much on earth as in the next life- and the second level sins can be forgiven through confession and penance.
And that third type of sin? That's where all this is still rejected. So one type of sin you are born with, and get rid of through Christ. One type you blunder into as a result of daily life, and can go to Him for forgiveness. And the third you can commit all your life, but it doesn't stick until the end.