The question we give the confirmands is the same every year:
Why did Jesus come to earth?
In other words, why Christmas?
Every year the questions are the same and, remarkably, every year so are the answers. The needle doesn’t move at all.
More than 3/4 answer, year in and year out:
that Jesus comes
in order to die.
And the problem with that answer is…it’s wrong.
We lament the commercialization of Christmas. We kvetch about the war on Christmas. We talk about how Jesus is the reason for the season.
But it’s not clear to me that we’re at all clear on what the reason for Jesus is.
So I thought what better way to anticipate the ‘Feast of the Incarnation’ than with a series of posts, mining the riches of saints and church fathers like Maximus the Confessor, Duns Scotus, Gregory of Nyssa, Nicholas of Cusa, Bonaventura, and Thomas Aquinas on the logical necessity of the incarnation irrespective of the Fall.
In other words:
That if Adam had never sinned God still would have taken flesh in Mary’s womb. Or someone like her.
That Joseph (or someone like him) still would’ve laid God in a manger even if God had not needed to die for our sin.
That the Son still would’ve donned golden fleece diapers even if we hadn’t needed a Suffering Servant to bear our iniquity.
#9 Reason Why Christmas Doesn’t Need the Cross:
Jesus isn’t (just) a Solution to a Problem
‘Jesus is the Answer’ says the bumper sticker, leading us to surmise the question.
How can I be saved?
How do I get to heaven?
How can I be forgiven?
(And the less likely meaning: How can we achieve whirled peas?)
When we say that God sends Jesus so that we can be forgiven of our sins (‘…born so no more men may die…’, ‘…as far as the curse is found…’), we’re saying that Jesus is primarily a solution to a problem.
It’s like saying I married my wife, Ali; so that, I wouldn’t be lonely.
I shouldn’t need to say that both Ali and my boys are surpassingly more to me than just a hedge against loneliness.
They’re not simply a solution to a problem.
They possess infinite worth and value independent of me and quite apart from any problem to which they may prove the remedy.
Even more important, they possessed that infinite worth and value prior to me or my hypothetical ‘loneliness’ problem.
Preexistent is the word the New Testament uses to make sure we don’t think Jesus is just last dash effort at finding a solution to a problem.
But when we say God sends Jesus to die so that God can forgive us of our sins, that’s exactly what we do.
We reduce Jesus to a strategy.
We circumscribe him according to his utility.
We render Jesus down until he’s little more than a device God uses to bail us out of our situation.
(Not to mention we construe the Godhead such that God and Jesus seem to be at odds and we render an omnipotent God captive to his own arbitrary rules of holiness.)
Perhaps it’s no surprise we speak of and think about and treat Jesus in this way.
We’re exposed to three thousand advertisements a day that operate on the same, simple, seductive formula:
They identify a problem- maybe a problem you didn’t even know you had until they told you that you had the problem- a pesto problem say.
And then they make you a promise: this product can solve your problem (and maybe all your problems).
And best of all, it’s easy. All you have to do is make a decision, say ‘yes’ to this product.
There’s nothing else you have to do.
But Jesus isn’t a device.
Jesus isn’t a product. He’s not like a Vitamix.
Jesus isn’t merely a solution to the problem of Sin and Death.
Jesus isn’t a strategy made flesh; he’s the fullness of God made flesh.
Jesus is more than the first clause solution in a so that statement.
He’s the eternal Son, begotten not made, the second person of the Trinity.
Prior to anything in all of creation.
Because, after all, as Colossians points out: the Son is the One through him all things in creation were made.
The Word made flesh is the selfsame Word that spoke all flesh into being.
Jesus isn’t just a solution a problem.
Because Jesus is prior to anything and all things in creation.
Prior even to the Fall.