By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor
What do you and I believe about Christmas, really? When the church confesses its faith, it doesn’t say: “I believe in the virgin birth, the empty tomb, and the second coming.” We believe in a person –“Jesus Christ, our Lord.” Church doctrines dealing with Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection are necessary if we are to articulate our faith; however, they are not themselves the object of our faith. Our trust, hope, and confidence are in Jesus and him alone. We need to take church doctrines about him very seriously, but we should never confuse even the most orthodox doctrines with genuine Christian faith. We may be comforted by the fact that faith in him can be real even though our ability to express that faith in words is always inadequate. We must be constantly vigilant during the season of preparation, Advent, and through the season of arrival, Christmas, that our main concern is about Jesus himself, not with our own or even the church’s sometimes confusing presentation of him—not the glitter and lights of the shopping malls—not even the ideas you and I think are right.
During Advent and especially during Christmas we ask “Who is this person who stands at the center of the Christian faith?” It is significant that the Apostles’ Creed speaks of Jesus with verbs: born, crucified, raised, ascended, and so on. It doesn’t give us an explanation or analysis of his deity and humanity and how they are related. It simply tells us the story. This is also how the New Testament talks about Jesus. It gives no theological discussion about doctrines surrounding his life and its events. It simply tells us who Jesus is by telling and interpreting the story of what he said and did. He is the one who speaks with authority, heals, serves, loves, obeys, commands, forgives, judges, prays, suffers, gives up his life, triumphs, and rules. During Christmas you and I need to reflect on the meaning of his life among us … which means we must consider how Jesus chose to live his life and how his actions are reflected in how we live our lives. Only through our meditation on the meaning of his life and actions will you and I learn the secret of who he really is. The person of Jesus is inseparable from his work. You and I must never forget that Christmas is not an intellectual or even metaphysical puzzle we are solving, but the arrival of a life through which all history is interpreted … our lives included.
So, “The Word became flesh,” John once wrote, and of all flesh this particular flesh: son of a teenage pregnancy, near victim of a ruler’s genocide, 1st century stone-mason and rabbi, prostitute’s hero, poor person’s Messiah, Savior-Healer of the world. Christmas means Jesus is the Word of God made flesh and we can take it or leave it. It is this birth, this life, this death, and this life again, through which God manages to say who God really is.