“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,” which is translated,
“God with us.”
We're into the second week of Advent and I've decided—over the course of the last few weeks—that I can't imagine anything less gnostic than Christmas. In fact, anti-gnostic is actually the word that keeps springing to mind.
In the beginning God declared all of His creation “good.” The dark soil and almond trees; the pungent smell of fresh garlic and the clean smell of grass; the checkerboard pattern of giraffes and the stripes on zebras. Man (His image-bearer) was called to tend and rule all of it. We know what happened. Adam (and ultimately, us in him) took that which had not yet been given and we—the very image-bearers of God—were cut off, bound in sin, broken, dead, and defiled. And with our fall all of the glorious creation was plunged into bondage.
Over the successive generations God graciously kept a people for Himself—showing His goodness and pouring forth His forgiveness again and again. Then some 4,000 years after the fall, in a concrete year when Quirinius was governing Syria and Augustus Caesar sat in Rome considering himself a god and lord of the world—our God, our Creator God whose image we bear—supreme in majesty, awesome in power, perfect in goodness, beauty, and holiness—actually humbled Himself to take on our human form—this dusty, earthy, problematic matter. Born in a feeding trough He lived every tangible, touchable day through all the dust and dirt and difficulties. And then He went to the cross and was broken in pieces for the life of the world. What kind of a God is this?
And more than that—He didn't do it grudgingly.
Our good God, manifesting His gracious glory, has given us Christ—His faithful image-bearer—God-with-us. How shall He not with Him freely give us all things? Counsel—assurance—the ability to look at the earth and obey Him in faith, stepping out against giants—even the power and strength to rejoice in Him when it's so hard and all we want to do is curl up in our own little cocoon and never smile again, let alone serve anyone else.
God sent His son physically into the physical world. Mary physically labored to have a real, physical, hungry baby. He lived and died and was resurrected physically—tangibly—bodily—inviting his disciple to reach his hand into His side and feel—standing among His people and chewing honeycomb, feasting on God's sweet gifts.
Christ upholds all things by the word of His power and in Him we have been made alive—declared good, clean, and holy. He has made all things new—and as He rejoices over His good work He invites us to the inestimable privilege of sharing in His joy.