Thursday, December 1, 2016

Advent - What Was So Important?

What was so important to God that he did this?
Photo credit: Bob Swain
The snake was the most clever of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. The snake spoke to the woman and said, “Woman, did God really tell you that you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” 
The woman answered the snake, “No, we can eat fruit from the trees in the garden. But there is one tree we must not eat from. God told us, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden. You must not even touch that tree, or you will die.’”

But the snake said to the woman, “You will not die. God knows that if you eat the fruit from that tree you will learn about good and evil, and then you will be like God!”

The woman could see that the tree was beautiful and the fruit looked so good to eat. She also liked the idea that it would make her wise. So she took some of the fruit from the tree and ate it. Her husband was there with her, so she gave him some of the fruit, and he ate it.

Genesis 3.1-6, ERV


We can get so used to the Christmas season that we may not notice how peculiar the whole story is.  Doesn't it strike you as odd that the transcendent God of the universe decided he should spend 9 months in a young woman's womb and then find himself a helpless baby laying in a feeding trough (that's what a "manger" is), dependent on two subsistence-level peasants (Mary and Joseph) for every last little thing?

Of course, with the benefit of hindsight we know that this was the miracle of the Incarnation and that it led down a path that culminated in the only event even more absurd: God being executed by his own creation.  But that only deepens the mystery.  This was an incredibly drastic move on God's part -- almost desperate, if one can say that about God.  What could possibly be so important that he would commit himself to a plan so extreme?

The Genesis scripture quoted above may seem a strange choice for the beginning of a series about Advent, but actually it's integral to the Christmas story. Why was the King of Creation willing to become a tiny infant? Why would a being used to everything being done with just a word voluntarily put that all aside and throw himself into a life of utter powerlessness -- into having his diapers changed in a dirty, frigid stable? 

What was so important to him?

At its core the Genesis story tells us that we and the world around us were created good, but our disobedience to God's simple, loving request doomed his children. Why are there wars and slavery and economic meltdowns, but also first responders, Shakespeare and Mozart, and sunsets that move you to tears?  Because this is a good world that is broken, and we are the ones that broke it. We ourselves released the terminal disease of evil upon the world, we don't know how to cure it, and it eats away at our souls. There is no cure, no hope, unless...

Unless, as Advent tells us (and as we will discuss as we move through this series), God himself enters into the stream of time, becomes a finite human, fights the climactic battle that defeats Evil, and absorbs the disease of sin into himself so that his children can live. 

In other words, unless the child comes.

Traditionally, on the first Sunday of Advent, members of the Christian Movement light a candle called The Candle of Hope. When we were without hope, God did not turn his back and walk away, counting us as a failed experiment. At the crucial time, he came for us. Amidst all the presents and joy, the ho-ho-ho and mistletoe, this is what we must never forget about Christmas: The thing that was so important to God was us.

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Prayer: God of hope and of love at all costs, although we rebel against you, you do not give up on us. Thank you for going to the utmost extreme to save your helpless children. Thank you for being the wondrous child who came to our rescue.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.

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