Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas: A real event in space-time

Yes, I admit it. What a geeky title for a blog post. Bear with me a little though, if you will.

There is a Christmas song I heard on the radio the other day. I've known it for most of my life, and I've even sung it as part of a choir. It is a beautiful sentiment, and makes its point powerfully. Its name is Some Children See Him.

Yes, it is a beautiful song. Here is one of the best renditions ever, recorded by James Taylor:

The main point of the song is a good one. The gospel is intended for all people everywhere. At the time when Jesus lived on the earth, many of his fellow Jews felt that the Messiah was coming exclusively for them. So many parables, so many actions, so many teachings were designed to show that he had come for the whole world - Jew and Gentile. The gospel, the Kingdom, was for the nations. The message was there throughout he Hebrew Scriptures, from Adam, to Abraham, to Moses, to Isaiah. But they just didn't get it. After his resurrection, Jesus said to go into ALL the world. Reaching out to all people, of all races, with all skin colors.

And we in the Western church can be just as stubborn as the people of 1st century Palestine. So much of our Christianity is centered in what's good for us. We see a lily-white Jesus who wants to make all people more like us. We may not say it, but it creeps into our subconscious so easily. And I think that is what the song is speaking to.

But to me there is one thing we have to watch out for as we sing these lyrics. The objective is good, but the execution may be flawed. You see, one of the biggest dangers to faith today is the idea that truth is relative. "That may be true for you, but it's not for me." The word of the day is "tolerance," and it's clear that as a society we are defining it as total acceptance of everyone's belief's as equally true.

This is contrary to both Biblical revelation and common sense. Either your car is red or it's not. We can';t say with a serious face, "That car is red to me, but if you believe it's blue I'm sure that's equally true."

And now back to the geeky title of this post. God entered the world in the person of Jesus, born as a baby. The miracle of the incarnation: the Word became flesh. The creator of space-time entered his creation at a specific time in a specific place.

And with specific skin.

So yes, children all over the world may see Jesus as being like them. And that's great....as long as they are also taught that he was actually one person with one body and one skin tone. He is not a concept, a spirit, a symbol. We must not spiritualize his coming. He was, and is, a person.

The song gets this right: It is likely that most of our depictions have been wrong. He was Jewish and therefore probably had darker skin that most of our paintings. But he had one skin color. He was really in the flesh. We don't know what it was. But we know it was real.

A picky point? Maybe. But I just worry that when we de-emphasize the humanity of Jesus, we lose the truth of the incarnation. The real God of the universe became a real person with real human characteristics based on real human DNA.

Maybe the fact that for almost all of humanity (all but Jewish) he is a different ethnicity from us means this: we don't have a corner on his nature. He's not our Jesus - he's everyone's Jesus. And he came to save people from every corner of the earth.
And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scrolls and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9)

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