PC: Weebly stock photo
Christmas is here. Oh, happy day, many of you rejoice, it’s now officially not too early to be playing Christmas carols or decorating the marketplace or putting up your Christmas tree. It’s finally here.
But Christmas is also past. The moment in time that designated the time-and-space-shattering upheaval of the natural world-- the birth of Jesus, the Son of God -- occurred over 2,000 years ago.
Even though his form is that of a helpless baby, his arrival is heralded by a sky-full of heavenly host -- formidable representatives of the Almighty Sovereign. Though it was a nighttime invasion, and unseen by all but a few mortals, it cannot -- nor does not -- go unnoticed by the principalities and powers of the air. Though it is a mere babe who lies sleeping in a manger, the military host of heaven have mustered for their sovereign's review. God is advancing into occupied territory, claiming his own, and appointing his righteous and divine son, the God-Man, to lay waste to death and take victory over the grave (1 Corinthians 15:55). (Peace, no Peace, 12/18/16)
And yet, Christmas is also further past than that. In a time before time was counted, Christmas was plotted. In 1 Peter 1, a passage that readies the early Christian reader for troubled times ahead and issues a call for a holiness that will help them endure the trials, we are told that Jesus “was foreknown before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20). And in Acts, that he was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23), and in Luke 22:22, that “the Son of Man goes as it has been determined.”
I’ve been readying my house for Christmas, little by little checking tasks off my list -- tree up and decorated (check!); online gifts purchased (check!); wrapping supplies staged (check!). But here I note that there are other kinds of readying for Christmas that transcends the details of a holiday ritual.
First, God -- the Triune God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- prepared for Christmas from before the foundation of the world. And this wasn’t just a birthday picked out in advance. This was the whole plan of God’s redemption of a people for himself laid out and determined before a blade of grass had been sown or a feather had fluttered on this terrestrial ball. “Before the foundation of the world” bends my liberal arts brain in ways that I can almost grasp but barely articulate the enormity of the concept.
God in his wisdom and timing planned a perfect Christmas for his church, for the bride of Christ. He planned every event and set every kingdom and army in place; he called the Moabitess and the murdering king and the virgin and the desert shepherd; he placed the star and turned the hearts of kings and decreed governmental decrees with more precision than any Christmas garden town under any Christmas tree has ever been set up, from past or future. His goal was to establish a story that would do more than tickle fancies with sugar plums dancing in children’s heads -- it would convey all the sovereign power, providential goodness and speech-robbing, awe-inspiring wonder of a holy and supernatural Ruler of the universe intersecting with the people of this earth and unfurling the pièce de résistance in his declaration that this has been, is, and will always be all His.
So, Christmas imports the divine purpose of God in its celebration. Go have fun; sing those silly, faith-empty songs; reposition your elf every night; take your grandkids to see the mall Santa this year. It's a celebration! And make every action and thought -- silly or sober, giddy or grand -- representative of one who has been claimed since before the foundation of the world.
Secondly, the 1 Peter passage signals another kind of preparation being undertaken “in the sanctification of the Spirit” by and for those who are the elect. This pastoral epistle is nonetheless weighty with doctrinal merit; in it, Peter draws attention to the heavenly realities, alerts his readers to the coming trials and assures them every affliction counts as worthy on God’s scales, and reminds them of the sure and ever faithful promises of God, for all those whom he has called, who are found in Christ Jesus, the babe in the manger.
Jesus was the long-expected Messiah. He came to redeem those who were chosen from before the foundation of the world. And Jesus’s coming was Emmanuel/God with us; it declared that God’s plans always come to be. And Jesus’s work secured us in him for all of eternity, and his presence now comforts us that this is but a time of pilgrimage on our way to our heavenly home.
Are you preparing this season to consider Christmas past, present, and future?
*This list compiled at BibleStudyTools.com.