The question we give the confirmands is the same every year:
Why did Jesus come to earth?
In other words, why Christmas?
About 15% always respond that Jesus comes to teach us how to love one another and help the needy (I suppose those are the liberals).
Without fail, a reliable 85% answer, in so many words, that Jesus comes to forgive us for our sins.
That Jesus is born to die.
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.
The more time I spend at bedsides and gravesides, the more I hear confessions and listen to struggles, the more people share of their faith and their fears, the more kids ask me questions, the more I’m convinced that the question ‘Why does Jesus come?’ is the most important question we can ask.
And so I thought what better way to anticipate Christmas- what the Book of Worship calls the ‘Feast of the Incarnation-‘ than with a series of posts on the logical necessity of the incarnation irrespective of the Fall.
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 Jesus still would’ve donned golden fleece diapers even if he hadn’t needed to bear our iniquity.
Before you think I sound heretical, keep in mind this series will just shamelessly mine the thoughts of saints and church fathers like Maximus the Confessor, Duns Scotus, Gregory of Nyssa, Nicholas of Cusa, Bonaventura, Thomas Aquinas and, yes, Herr Dr. Karl Barth.
#10 Reason Why Christmas Doesn’t Need the Cross:
The Finite Doesn’t Determine the Infinite
It makes the incarnation contingent on us:
on our sin
on the Fall
on Adam and Eve’s disobedience.
Instead of something that flows from God’s abundance, the incarnation is something provoked by our weakness. Like a parent reacting desperately reacting to a child’s temper tantrum- but a God of perfect love and apatheia (look it up) by definition doesn’t REACT.
When we think that Jesus comes to die, instead of a gift God gives out of joy for us, the incarnation is the outworking of God’s frustration and disappointment in us.
Like a parent giving their prodigal child one last chance.
But ask any parent of a prodigal child (or just watch The Super Nanny): it’s most often the child, not the parent, who’s in control.
I know most of think Jesus comes to die, that the occasion of this holiday is occasioned by our sin, but then Christmas isn’t something God freely does of his love and grace.
It’s something God’s compelled to do because of our plight.
It’s something God has to do to rescue us from Sin.
But by definition God- as in the only pure Being whose existence is absolutely necessary, making all else contingent through and through- doesn’t have to do anything.