December, the Year of Our Lord 2019
Peace and Good Will to All!
People all over the world are in the thrall of preparing for a celebration of the anniversary of history’s greatest event: The Nativity of our Lord. Or, putting it in more theological terms, the Incarnation of God… the Word (of God) become flesh… the birth of Jesus the Christ. Mostly lost amid today’s crass commercialism of the holiday, the momentousness of the occasion ranks it among the top three events in the history of the world. The world knows these events as The Incarnation, The Crucifixion, and The Resurrection of Jesus the Christ. That these are articles of faith to Christians does not detract from their significance. It merely distinguishes them from human-caused events and the occurrence of natural phenomena. The Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection are distinguished from every other event in the history of the world because they involve the very being of God. God is born for you; God dies for you; God is raised for you.
God born for you—that is, God became flesh for you. There is, perhaps, no more affront to the traditional and philosophical understanding of God than this: That the immortal God should become mortal; that the idealized spirit should become historical flesh; that the pure and holy should become stained and profane; and that the transcendent should become so immanent that we can actually call him Immanuel—God with us. Jesus the Christ, the babe on Mary’s lap, is the only God we know.
God died for you—that is, God hangs on the cross for you. Here is the second affront to the human understanding of God: The death of God. So that there would be room for faith, Jesus the Christ hangs on the cross and dies. Surely, he could have come down from the cross… surely, he could have called on a host from heaven to smite his tormentors… surely, with a word, he could have relieved himself of all suffering… but for you and for your faith, he died. And all his benefits of the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are hidden beneath his suffering and death. Jesus the Christ, the man on the cross, is the only God we know.
God raised for you—that is, God comes out of the grave for you. Here is the third affront to our human notions of the way things are: the dead are supposed to stay dead. Without the finality of death, all exercise of human coercive power proves ultimately fruitless. Jesus the Christ comes forth from the tomb, resurrected in the body glorious. Yet, for the sake of faith, he stays visibly present for only forty days. His glory, and ours, are known only in faith and await his coming again for their manifestation. Jesus the Christ, resurrected and ascended out of sight, is the only God we know.
The three most momentous events in the history of the world are all for you and for your benefit. God’s birth, death, and resurrection establish you in your life of faith so that you might have life in this world and have it abundantly. God, the babe born in Bethlehem… God, the man Jesus of Nazareth dying on the cross… God, the Christ risen and taken from sight… these are the only God the Word gives you faith to know. This God is for you all the way to the manger… all the way to the cross… and all the way to the resurrection of the body.
May you celebrate well the anniversary of this momentous occasion by enjoying the gifts God himself delivers unto you: his birth, his death, and his resurrection… and his life as your life.
Rev. Timothy J. Swenson
Dean of Chapel, ILT