Summary: At Christmas there are "little" questions and there are "big" questions. Some must be answered.
WHAT’S HAPPENED TO CHRISTMAS?
1- Shopping complex said ’no’ to a church’s regular request to put up a nativity scene. They said it didn’t fit the theme? (Fairy story and robotics themes this Christmas)?
2- Why do Secular/capitalist cultures trivialize and commercialize anything sacred? (Christians?)
3- Do Christians have to be ’party-poopers’?
4- Jesus came partying, and the church leaders complained about that too. They’re still at it.
5- People are being accosted by believers telling them Christmas was always pagan (Saturnalia and all that), so don’t give gifts, don’t go to church, treat it like any other day.
6- Then Bible trivia nights include questions like: How many wise men?
7- Center your mind on God’s gift. It’s the greatest event in human history - the Incarnation of the Creator/Redeemer God - and we have no imagination or awe or wonder about that????
But these are little questions. So what are the Big Ones?
1. WHAT WAS GOD UP TO?
• From the beginning of human history God sought to woo humankind. (Heb. 1:1-3)
• Again and again prophets were sent to woo us, and encourage a response of commitment and love, but man was too busy cavorting with other lover/gods.
• Finally the Son came, and we rejected him too and crucified him.
• Nativity story ’has become weightless, forgettable and as banal as the carols on the mall loudspeakers, no longer evoking the kind of fear called awe.
• Luke =Zechariah and Mary and the shepherds and others being afraid, filled with awe.
• Mark ends with the women at Jesus’ tomb being speechless, "for they were afraid".’
When God’s at work and we view it as ordinary, we’d better get scared.
• For Rudolf Otto (The Idea of the Holy) the sacred is ’mysterium tremendum et fascinans’, the awe-inspiring mystery which fascinates us.
• In the incarnation God was reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5:19; also Gal 4:4, Phil 2:8, Jn 1:14) - or ’hugging the world to himself’ as the Cottonpatch version has it).
• God stooped to take on man’s form in order to answer His own desire to reclaim man!
• Phil 2:6-11, probably one of the earliest Christian songs, tells us…
1) what God is like, and 2) how we can be like God.
• God comes to us as a servant. To be great, don’t lord it over others, but serve them.
• Later, these fellows proved they were slow learners at this point. (Foot-washing)
• Ultimately, as Philippians 2 says, the cross itself was the supreme symbol of his servanthood. He served by giving his life for his friends (including us!)
That is what God was up to!
2. WHAT’S THE WORLD UP TO?
• Same as ever: Jesus’ world was a mixture of economic and cultural growth -and savagery.
• Herod saw the temple complex completed in Jerusalem, but as the fear of a Jewish revolt increased, Herod became more cruel. He murdered his wife and the two sons, in addition to other family members. The emperor Augustus said ’It is better to be Herod’s pig (hys) than to be his son (huos).’ (Partial Birth Abortion??) He ordered some Pharisees to be burned alive because they’d tried to remove the golden eagle which had been set up in the Temple. When the ’wise men’ came asking ’Where is he that is born King of the Jews?’ it was the kind of question, to put it mildly, he didn’t like. So according to Matthew, he tried to eliminate Jesus by destroying the babies.