Because it is Christmas Eve after all, I’ll keep this short. I would imagine you have plenty of last minute things to get done today, or you’ve gotten everything done and are spending time with your family and/or friends.
In either case, you’re probably not interested in reading a lengthy post on theology, even if it is Christmas focused.
So, I promise I’ll be brief.
Something that I’ve been thinking through lately is how we construe Christmas’ relation to the Christian life. Usually, we recognize that we are celebrating Jesus’ birth and that because he was born and lived and died for our sins, we can have eternal life.
So far, so good.
But I think there is more that could be said, and maybe even should be said.
For starters, I think that if our Christmas story starts in Matthew instead of with Moses, we’re shortchanging the drama of redemption. If we look at the history of redemption told in Scripture with an Inception-esque* mindset, we’ll see that there is a grand narrative of redemption starting in Genesis and ending in Revelation, but that within that narrative there are shorter redemptive episodes that sometimes even have shorter redemptive episodes embedded within them.
Because of that, the story of Jesus life, death, and resurrection can be told as a stand alone story that climaxes in redemption (like every good story does), and this is how we usually tell the Christmas story. Think of how well Inception would have been had the only story been the deepest level of the dream sequence. It would have been a good stand alone story, but it takes on much more significance when it is embedded within the larger narrative of Cobb’s journey.
In the same way, the Christmas story takes on much more significance when we we incorporate the history of Israel into the narrative and start in the first two books of the Bible instead of the first two chapters of Matthew or Luke. I’m not going to sketch out how here to do that, if you’re interested, you might want to check out Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel (among other books).
So, on the one hand the narrative of Christmas is rather Inception-esque. On the other hand, the theology of Christmas is also rather Inception-esque. As I’ve been reading more on our union with Christ, this has become more apparent to me, and I think this quote from Robert Letham will help illuminate:
Indeed, the Christian faith can be summed up as, inter alia, a series of unions. There is the union of the three persons in the Trinity, the union of the Son of God with our human nature, the union of Christ with his church, the union established by the Holy Spirit with us as he indwells us. Each of these unions preserves the integrity of the constituent elements or members, being at once a real union and simultaneously not absorbing the one into the other (Union with Christ, 37-38).
In other words, the Christian faith itself entails a union (you and the Spirit) within a union (Spirit-dwelt individuals and Christ) within a union (Christ and his human nature) within a union (Christ and the Father, and Spirit).
Regarding Christmas then, we are celebrating the arrival of the 3rd union in that list (Christ to humanity), which makes the first two possible, and ultimately allows you and me to be in communion with the Triune God. Because God united humanity to Christ at the Incarnation, individuals who are united to Christ by the Spirit are able to commune with God through the mediator Jesus Christ.
Rather than leaving us to flounder in limbo after the fall, God sent His Son to become one of us, while still remaining God, so that He could then provide a way for us to not only be saved from our sin, but for our original unimpeded garden communion to be restored. The Incarnation is the pivot point in all of this, which makes Christmas the culmination of the hope of Israel, but points forward to Easter as the culmination of the hope of creation.
In the end, just like Inception ends with Cobb finally seeing his children face to face, the story of Christmas and the arrival of humanity’s union with God in Christ ultimately ends with seeing the glory of Christ face to face and living in that union and communion for eternity.
Now that is something worth celebrating, am I right?
*When I use the phrase “Inception-esque” I am referring to any concept that is better understood when using the dreamscape structure in Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010). I’m not referring to the process of inception, which in terms of the film, is planting an idea in someone else’s mind unbeknownst to them.