I’m learning more and more that the Gospel is everything. No, really. Everything. It’s relevant to every situation, every relationship, and every thought and action, whether we think it is or not. While this may seem like entry-level Christianity, it’s really a life-long journey. The Good News has to be diligently worked through and internalized over and over again if we want to better live it out and articulate it to others.
The birth of Christ is obviously a very important component of this Gospel, but it’s only one of many parts in God’s grand story. So for this week’s post and continuing on in next week’s, I want to do a “basic” rendering of the Christmas story, which ends up essentially being an overview of the Gospel. I’ll do this through the presentation of four concepts – a tree, a tent, a manger, and a crown. Note: this is NOT an original idea. My church has been using the four weeks of Advent this year to tell each of these four stories, so there’s my inspiration. Their series is called Immanuel: God With Us – the idea being that these concepts both tell the story of Christmas and show the ways in which God has been with us and will be with us throughout all time.
The Bible teaches that God made everything in our universe. When He made people, He made them to be in perfect relationship with Him and with each other. And in the beginning, it was so. He gave humanity everything they could ever want – relationship with Him, meaningful and fulfilling work in tending the creation, His blessing to multiply, and the provision of their every want and need. He had just one rule: eat to your heart’s content of every tree in the garden…except one. Such a small thing to ask in light of the avalanche of blessings they had been given, but we know what happens next. The first humans failed to be content with the goodness of their Creator and thinking they knew better than Him, they ate of the one tree that was forbidden to them, thinking they could be like God. As a result of their pride and disobedience, the blackness of sin entered humanity and stained it and all creation from that moment on. Throughout all of history through the present, we see that brokenness continually displayed in the realities of suffering, evil, and decay – in world events, in every community, and in our very own hearts. Put simply, sin taints everyone and everything, period. Bleak.
Thankfully, the Creator did not abandon us and all of creation to the darkness. In the same garden where the first sin was committed, He made a promise. He promised to send a deliverer, one who would be bruised but ultimately victorious over evil. This savior would make a way for humanity to go back to how it was in the beginning when there was perfect relationship with the good and wise King. He would bring hope, healing, redemption, and light.
So then the story of Christmas starts with a tree, a reminder of why Jesus had to come in the first place, of just how bad things really are, and of the promise of a savior.
It would be centuries upon centuries until this promised deliverer came. But in the years of waiting, God revealed glimpses of the salvation that was to come. He called a handful of people display His righteousness, His power, and His compassion. He allowed them to experience relationship with Him through a system of worship practices, laws, and direct revelation. His presence was made near, in various ways but primarily in a tent called the Tabernacle and later the Jewish Temple. All of these practices and laws were designed to draw God’s people to follow Him, and many were intentional analogies to illustrate what Jesus would later accomplish through his life, death, and resurrection.
He empowered prophets and kings and ordinary people to tell or display who He was, to act on His behalf, and to remind His people that someday a savior would come.
So the story of Christmas continues with a tent, a reminder that God was actively working and present amidst His people long before Jesus, and the path for the Messiah was being prepared.
What did I miss?
Next week we’ll take a look at a manger and a crown. To be continued…