Top Ten Reasons Christmas Doesn’t Need the Cross: #9

Jason Micheli —  December 4, 2013 — 9 Comments

lightstock_59323_small_user_2741517Every year during Advent we let our confirmation students loose through the church building to take an informal poll.

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.

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.

It’s like saying Ali and I had children; so that, we wouldn’t be lonely. img26064

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.

 

 

Jason Micheli

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9 responses to Top Ten Reasons Christmas Doesn’t Need the Cross: #9

  1. 1) I thought at first you were weaving christologies (Pauline and Johanine). Then I considered the importance of the logos hymn in setting the stage for the revealed nature of Jesus throughout the 4th gospel. I see a relationship that feels like a highly developed biblical wisdom.
    2) Must not the creator infuse him/herself into the art?

  2. Did I miss it or did you not answer your own question?

    • Which or what question did I ask? I’ll answer it. Admittedly, this would best be served by one long, sustained argument in a single post but then no would read it.

  3. Why did Jesus come to earth?

  4. I’m glad you qualified your words with the parenthetical word “just,” as in “Jesus isn’t (just) a Solution to a Problem.” (Maybe you read my previous comment?) You concede, then, that Jesus is at least a solution to a rather large problem, among many, many other things. Again, it’s no theological error to say that this is the primary reason Jesus came, not out of compulsion, but out of love. What does the angel say to Joseph in Matthew 1: “You’ll name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Not that the angel said everything that needs to be said about Jesus or his identity, but isn’t it fair to say that he said the most important thing? I guess the angel is wrong, along with most of your church members.

    By the way, I’m curious what kind of church you pastor, that you risk offending 85 percent of your members by telling them that they’re wrong and you’re right?

    • I’m not suggesting that Jesus doesn’t save us from our sins nor that sin is not a very big deal. I’m only arguing that to say the Son is preexistent forces you to say either that God created foreseeing a fall for which God would require an innocent’s blood or the incarnation has purposes other than and prior to the atonement. It’s a topic best suited to one long sustained argument but then no one would read it so its broken up over 500 words posts.

      • Of course God created knowing that one consequence of doing so was the cross. He obviously thought it was worth it. God is eternal and outside of time. I’m not aware that this is a controversial idea.

        You’re caricaturing penal substitution, and not for the first time. It’s not God’s sending an innocent victim, who happens to be his Son, to the cross; it’s God himself choosing the cross, choosing to bear our sins, choosing to die in our place. I’m guessing you disagree with that theory of atonement, but please represent it fairly.

  5. First of all, as a church and staff member, I don’t feel that Jason told me I’m wrong. He’s merely saying that Christ coming to earth to “save us” should not only be viewed as what Jesus can do for us; or only as a means to an end. The end result may be the same (salvation), but the reasoning behind it is key. God should not be limited to how He fits into our lives, but how we fit into His.

    Jason takes common Christian responses to questions and turns them on their head, challenging us to see the real meaning behind these responses.

    Jason’s faith is pure, strong, and meaningful. So much so that he doesn’t just tell us straight up what to think. He uses sarcasm, wit, and yes, sometimes shock value to get us to think about our faith. He always presents his thoughts through a biblical lens, built on solid Christian principles and history.

    Church members from Northern Virginia are smart, well-educated professionals and families who look forward to Jason’s sermons each week. His sermons are interesting and present the gospel in its truest form. His love of Christ is evident to those who know him. We feel blessed to have him as our pastor.

    • Elaine, tell your pastor and boss that I would love for Jason to actually respond to my comments for a change. And trust me, there are plenty of smart, well-educated professionals down here in Georgia who would disagree with him if they read him. As for sarcasm, he clearly doesn’t like when two play that game.

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