By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor
What do you and I believe about Advent & Christmas, really? When the church confesses its faith, it doesn’t say: “I believe in the virgin birth, the magi, the empty tomb, and the second coming.” We believe in a person, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. Church doctrines deal with Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection and are necessary if we are to articulate our faith. But they are not the object of our faith. Our trust, hope, and confidence are in Jesus and him alone.
We 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 revealed even though our ability to express that faith in words is always inadequate. We must be constantly vigilant during this 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.
The New Testament tells us through different versions about Jesus. It gives no theological discussion about doctrines surrounding his life and its events. It simply tells us stories of who Jesus is and 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 Advent and 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 what that means for 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 what was a teenage pregnancy, near victim of a ruler’s genocide, 1st century stone-mason and rabbi, sinner’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. And yet, it’s this birth, this life, this death, and this life again, through which God manages to reveal who God truly is.