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The Fleshliness of Christmas

Updated: Feb 26




“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.  The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.  And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We write this to make our joy complete.” 1 John 1:1-4.

 

I always grew up wondering at the wonderful and powerful mystery of the birth of Christ into this world.  Every year, this mystery seems to grow.  It is not an inexplicable type of mystery.  It becomes more clear and more meaningful, but the wonderful part of that mystery keeps growing.  It grew when many years ago, during the seminary days, when I learned what Irenaeus, the 2nd century church father wrote about the birth of Christ: God came into the world so that we may become like God.  It grew when I learned about the timing of the birth of Christ, which was at the height of evil and darkness and at the same time at the height of cultural achievements: the Golden Age of literature.  These facts tell me that the reason Christ came into the world is NOT to just save our souls.  He came also to redeem us in the sense of sanctifying us.  He came to redeem our way of life.  He came to redeem us so that we may have an abundant life in Christ ON THIS EARTH.  Yes, Jesus will return one day in physical body and if we are dead, we will be resurrected and have a glorified body, and a whole new level of mysterious and wonderful life begins. 

 

But the mysterious power of Christmas begins now.  And that mystery is so wonderful because it transforms not just our “spiritual” life, but all our cultural life as well.  God wants to transform our physical experiences as well as all our relational life—i.e., all our cultural life.  We may not have perfect bodies, and we are still subject to the results of the Fall and sin.  But Christ’s incarnation has begun to thaw out the results of the Fall and sin in every area of our physical and relational life. 

 

Look at the way the apostle John wrote about the birth of our Lord Jesus.  Apostle John is easily the most visionary writer of the four Gospel writers.  He usually writes about lofty, heady, vision of God.  But in the verse quoted above, John cannot be more physical and "carnal" about God’s love for us.  He begins by sharing his physical experience of Jesus: We heard, saw, and touched him.  That physical experience is so important that he keeps repeating it, and adds the emphasis that God appeared to us in human form.  The emphasis here is NOT our subjective experience.  Rather, the emphasis is our “objective” experience.  Christ is not Christ who only cares about our souls.  He cares about our physical life and relational life, our cultural life.  His redemption is not just from our guilt and shame.  He wants to renew our relationship with other people around us.  Apostle John ends this section by saying, that Jesus came “so that you [people around us, family and friends] may have fellowship with us.”  And the renewal of fellowship, peace, and reconciliation among people, this practical (shall I even use the word “fleshly” in the positive sense) relationship among people is possible because “our fellowship is [ultimately] with the Father and the Son.”  John says “I write this to make our joy complete” (1 John 1:4).  Christmas is the beginning of the restoration of a complete joy, which is both with God and with other people around us.

 

On Thursday night, we had some crazy fun at the Christmas Ball with many more people showing up at the door, so we had to scramble to get more tables.  To me, a special phenomenon was to see so many high school students show up to both serve the food and to dance.  If that’s not a sign of more complete joy on this earth, the joy of enjoying wholesome family and community fun, I don’t know what is.  There are so many other stories of how God is blessing fellowships within our community, my heart is filled with wonder and thanksgiving of the mysterious power of the birth of our Lord Jesus.  I met a young man at these festivities, a guest who seemed to show a slight concern that we are a program-driven school.  I did not tell this guest at the time, but the problem with many Christian today is the opposite, as well expressed by C. S. Lewis: The task of the modern educator is not cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts,” by which he meant, before kids are trained to criticize others on an intellectual level, they need to know what it means experience God’s love within the context of their community.  They need to experience the power of God’s love through their community life.  May the Lord bless you and yours during this Christmas season to hear, see, and touch his love through our fellowship with our families and friends. 

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