My thesis for this second Wednesday in Lent is that Christmas is the greatest event in the history of the world.
Christmas is the birth of Jesus. Christmas is the birth of God in human flesh. Christmas means that true God now dwells in the skin and with the heart of a human.
It’s the greatest event, and it’s the craziest scheme in the history of the world. Indeed, what you celebrate with joy as the most natural thing in all the world—that God loves you in such a way that He would become one of you, because that’s what it would take to save you—that you mark the occasion without batting an eye at the notion, with birthday-party-like merriment—is completely contrary to how people have thought about God down through the ages, and how God can or cannot, would or would not, come into contact with the created world.
You are familiar with Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, those great Greek thinkers who lived around four centuries before our Lord Jesus walked the earth. Those philosophers recognized that the world is a fallen place, that, even if they didn’t believe in Adam and Original Sin, they agreed that the world is a corrupt place. And, they reasoned, eternal God—however one conjured a creator—so transcended the created world, and was so set apart from corruption, that He thus could not, nor would He, have direct contact with the created world.
So, the Greek philosophers reasoned that God must have created the world by a series of emanations. Think of a stone thrown into a pond, and the concentric waves set off by the stone’s splooshing into the water. In this view, God is in the position of the stone, and the world is way out at the furthest of the waves which the stone has created. To the philosophers, this is the closest God can get to fallen, corrupt creation.
Before the Greek philosophers, there was Buddha. Well, the man, Siddhartha Gautama, who came to be called Buddha—which means awakened one—didn’t consider himself fully weaned off the snooze button until he spent many hours under the Bodhi tree. Buddha determined that enlightenment had to come from within one’s heart, that the only way to become a liberated human being was to completely let go of this world.
Buddha came up with a list called the Four Noble Truths. First, he recognized that suffering exists. But, number two, suffering is attached to our earthly desires. So, number three, suffering can only cease when we cut off all earthly desires. Thus, number four, to achieve the total ending of all desires, one must follow his eight-step program and to live by right understanding, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
Regarding God, Buddha believed that believing in God actually is a form of desire, one of our many attachments to this world which causes suffering. Thus, the desire for God must be given up. To Buddha, humans are their own gods, and they will only be at peace when they reach nirvana—a complete freeing of one’s mind from all worldly things.
Buddha would say that the notion of God becomes harmful, where the Greeks found it impossible for God to interact with the world. That takes us to the religion of Islam, where they are completely offended at the possibility that God has a Son.
The funny thing about Islam is that they don’t reject the idea of Jesus, but, to them, Jesus is not the Son of God. Rather, He is a prophet. And he’s not as important of a prophet as is Mohamed. But, that Jesus is God’s Son—that anyone could be God in the flesh of man—that is a complete impossibility.
These are but three of the many and various views about God and, clearly, none of them can embrace the idea of Christmas. For Muslims, Allah is very much as the Greeks thought of him—so set apart from this world that he could never be born into it. The Greeks had to come up with a pantheon of gods who ruled the world—Zeus and Hera, who are the king and queen gods; Poseidon, god of the seas; Apollo, god of light; and so on.
As for poor Buddha, who rejected the very notion of God, the Hindus made him a god and added him to their stable of millions of gods.
Finally, there is the modern philosopher, Bette Midler, whose popular song epitomized a common view of the deity: “God is watching us, from a distance.” Sounds Greek to me.
You might be familiar with the Bible verse, that we humans cannot conceive what God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9). Conceive is exactly right. We are so busy trying to figure out God, and how to get to God, and how to be God, that we could never conceive that God could or would be conceived in a human being. This is the beginning of why Christmas is the greatest event in the history of the world.
- We couldn’t conceive that God, being so above this creation—so holy and separate from the fallen and corrupt world—could or would make a human body for Himself.
- We couldn’t conceive that the way to true enlightenment about God could be or would be for Him to descend to us to teach us from His own mouth.
- We couldn’t conceive that God is not the image of we human’s what you see is what you get, but is, in fact, a complex being of three-in-one, one-in-three, ultimately revealed to us for who He is: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- We couldn’t conceive that God could or would be content to watch this fallen and corrupt world from a distance, but that He would enter it, commune with it and—gasp!—suffer and die for it.
All of these reasons, and a heavenly host more, are why God didn’t leave it to us to come up with the way to eternal life. Because we are, in fact, a fallen and corrupt world, we never could come up with the way to eternal life. We are confined to our corruption. We are trapped in our own way of thinking, which only and always leads to death.
Christmas is the greatest event, and the craziest scheme, in the history of the world. With Christmas, God turns the tables on humankind: we don’t go to God, God comes to us. We doesn’t save ourselves, God does the saving. Whodathunkit? Well, actually, no one woulda thunk it.
Since you know the rest of the story of Good Friday, and Easter, and the Ascension of our Lord Jesus, and that He will return on the Last Day to put an end to this fallen and corrupt world with our resurrection to the perfect Paradise of forever, consider how God has been born in you—how Christmas has come to you, personally.
In calling you by the Gospel, the Savior came to live in you, just as He came to live as the man named Jesus. In washing you in Holy Baptism, the Savior has joined you to the reason He took on your human flesh—to die for you so that you could live with Him.
And so you do.
And so you do!
Just as personally as God came into the world in the person of Jesus, Jesus has come into you so that you can go into heaven.
Christmas, the greatest event in the history of the world, has set the table for Good Friday, which will be—you guessed it—the greatest event in the history of the world. Amen.