Summary: 1. Christmas proclaims a mystery. 2. Christmas promises redemption. 3. Christmas promulgates meaning.
Last week we read the prayer of Zechariah called the “Benedictus”,as he praised God for his faithfulness to his covenant with Abraham. This week we are looking at the prayer of Mary, often called the “Magnificat.” Mary also connects the birth of her son with the covenant God made with Abraham, thousands of years before. She says, “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers” (Luke 1:54-55). The birth of Jesus is connected to God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants. This birth will also have future blessings. She says, “From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation” (Luke 1:48-50).
But the story was even bigger than Mary was able to see. The connection did not just go back to God’s promises to Abraham, they go back to the beginning of the world. The Bible, in talking of Jesus, says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17). That is a powerful scripture, and one that stretches our minds beyond our ability to understand, for what it means is that Christmas is not only tied to history, it is tied to creation, for the world was created through Christ.
As we think about Christmas and creation, the first thing we will see is: Christmas proclaims a mystery. The mystery is that the God who created the universe has now come to be born into the world. The Creator who made Mary is now carried in the womb of Mary, his creation. The One who inhabited the universe, is now confined to a stall. He who owns the world now finds no room in the Inn. St. Augustine echoed this thought centuries ago in his beautiful poem simply titled “Incarnation”:
Maker of the sun,
He is made under the sun.
In the Father he remains,
From his mother he goes forth.
Creator of heaven and earth,
He was born on earth under heaven.
He is wisely speechless.
Filling the world,
He lies in a manger.
Ruler of the stars,
He nurses at his mother’s bosom.
He is both great in the nature of God,
and small in the form of a servant.
The Gospel of John also proclaims this mystery as it describes Jesus as the Word of God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:1-5). Part of the mystery is that the world did not recognize God or what he was doing. John writes: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him” (John 1:10).
Part of our problem is that we are uncomfortable with mystery. A mystery is not always something we can figure out on our own. Sometimes it simply has to be held in suspension without explanation or complete understanding. This is the way it is with the birth of Christ. We understand it in part, but we will not ever completely comprehend it. It is beyond our ability to understand in its completeness and complexity. We believe it, in fact that is the only thing we can do with it. We read the words of Paul which say: “Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:6). We accept that truth and believe it by faith, but the full reality of it is beyond comprehension.
What we do understand is that God has invaded the world he made. This act of God in bringing Christ into the world is connected inseparably to the creation. For centuries no one really knew what God was doing, or how he was going to do it. It became more clear as Jesus began to teach and minister in the world. The author of Hebrews says: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1-2).