Sunday, December 6, 2020

The Christmas Backstory

The Christmas Backstory

Philippians 2:5-8

            This year my church received in the mail a short booklet of Advent devotions titled The Peace and Promise of Christmas.  It consists of ten Christmas reflections from the publication Our Daily Bread.  I want to share the introduction with you. The author is Bill Crowder.

            It seems to me that we enter the Christmas story too late.  We celebrate Jesus’ arrival on earth, but we forget He had to leave where he was so that He could come to where we are.  We’re so thrilled by the Baby in the manger, the angels, the shepherds, and the wise men that we don’t pause to remember that Baby’s humble beginnings.

            Stop for a moment to think about it.  The eternal Son of God left His Father’s presence, which He had known and enjoyed since before time began, in order to become that Baby in that manger.

            This should take our breath away!  Contrast the glory Jesus left with the darkness He stepped into.  Ponder the perfect relationship He enjoyed in the Father’s presence that He exchanged in order to embrace the brokenness we’ve inflicted upon His creation.  Consider the privilege and position He set aside so He could come to serve His creatures, when in reality He deserved to be served by us.

            This is the backstory of the Christmas story.  While the Bible doesn’t give us volumes of insight behind the scenes of Christmas, neither is it silent.  We can read enough to marvel at the sacrifices Christ made to come to earth.  And He did it all so that He could become our sacrificial lamb—the One who rescued us from death and brought us His peace.

            This is why what led up to the Christmas story is so important.  By unveiling Jesus’ true identity, we learn the eternal value of the coming of Christ to earth.

            Galatians 4:4 says, “When the set time had fully come, God, sent his Son, born of a woman…”

            What does Paul mean, “when the set time had fully come?”  What time?  Who’s time?  Who decided that the time was right for Jesus to be born? 

            God decided, of course.  In the fulness of God’s time Jesus was born. 

            Why did God decide that time was the right time?  Was that time somehow worse than all other times?  Were world conditions so evil, so corrupt that God decided it was the must time?  Was it the Roman Empire? The corruption of the Jewish religious/political leadership?  The paganism of the world outside Judea that made God decide the fulness of time had come?

            I read a sermon recently by Barbara Brown Taylor titled The End Is Near.  It was based on Mark 13:14-23.  In it she makes the point that the times have always been difficult.  Talking about the end of time she says: “If you think about it, the world has been ending for someone, somewhere for as long as anyone can remember…”  We can paraphrase her and say that the world has always been in the worst of times for someone, somewhere.  Adam and Eve being thrown out of Eden.  Egypt enslaving the Israelites.  The Babylonian Empire. The Roman Empire. The Middle Ages. The church before the Reformation.  Absolute monarchies.  The Civil War. World Wars I and II. Covid-19.  When hasn’t it been the worst of times?

            Yet for whatever reasons, God chose that time and that place to send God’s Son to rescue the world.  And so the Son left his Father’s presence to come to earth and become our Savior.  We can’t imagine the glories he left behind to come here, the full wonder of God’s realm, the company of angels.

            In his letter to the Philippians Paul briefly sketches that transition.  Jesus was “in the form of God.”  He “made himself nothing,” took “the form of a servant.”  He “humbled himself” to “the point of death”—the worst death Rome could think of.

            How do we repay a debt like that?  How do we thank God that in the fulness of time Jesus came to give us the fulness of eternity?

            We give him our hearts.

            We give him our love.

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