In the sixteen years of being married I have grown considerably in my knowledge and understanding of my wife. I better understand who she is because of the time we spend together. That’s what should happen in any growing love relationship. The same can be said of my relationship with my children. The same is also true of my relationship with God.
As far as Christianity goes, I am largely a product of ‘Classical Pentecostalism’. On my mother’s side, the Faught family has a strong Pentecostal tree. With that being said, I am most likely a fourth generation Pentecostal who grew up being taught traditional, conservative and most likely Reformed theology. Although the Reformation did bring some important realignments back into the Christian faith, there is one theory in particular that has been troubling, and it has to do with a central aspect to our faith: The Incarnation.
The Incarnation is a term used to describe God’s coming in the flesh to live and dwell among humanity. The birth of Jesus Christ was such. The God of Israel looked down upon creation and humanity and took it upon Himself to redeem it. The Bible tells us about the One God who loved the world in such a giving way that He took it upon Himself to act in merciful compassion towards His Creation.
We are told in The Bible that the One God who rules the cosmos is Yahweh. He revealed His Name to Moses and us back in Exodus 34:5-6. Biblically speaking, a name is more than family association. A name expresses a person’s essential character and essence. When God reveals His Name there are two important words associated with it: mercy and compassion.
Down through the Biblical writers, this knowledge of God was passed along within the Psalms and prophets. Yahweh is a merciful, compassionate and forgiving God. There is no greater example than the Incarnation. The Incarnation is an act of Mercy from the Triune self-giving God. In the birth of Jesus Christ God’s Son we see The Father, Spirit and eternal Logos come together to express His nature through the Promised Messiah. Zechariah thanked and linked the coming of the Messiah as an act of God’s merciful compassion (Luke 1:78-79). In fact, Jesus is the very Mercy seat of our God. In Christ, God guarantees a meeting place of mercy for Creation, Israel and the Gentile world. This is what Paul had in mind in Romans 3:25. Jesus is the One who brings about God’s ‘putting-right’ purposes in the world.
Why do I say all of this? Simply to highlight something that traditional Reform theology does not: God is not a God who needed Jesus to fulfill some sort of payment, penalty or ransom to get humanity off the hook so that we could go to heaven when we die. NO! Such a narrow view completely misses Israel, Creation and the character of our merciful, compassionate, self-giving God.
Our relationship with God is not birthed from a legal transaction but is more of a relational reality that flows from a manger of mercy. When I look upon the birth of Christ I see the face of our merciful, compassionate, loving God. Jesus is the place where God’s Mercy flows. From Him it flows out of me. It helps me to be merciful to those around me. It helps me to show others that I am one of His followers. In fact, being merciful is something He expects from me as I grow in my love relationship with Him (Matthew 5:7).
The manger is place where we can meet, receive and ‘be’ His mercy. We can meet His Mercy by accepting Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. We can receive His Mercy through the forgiveness of our sins and the breaking of its power. We can be HIs Mercy by telling others the good news.
Like the angelic host, we too can partner in the proclaiming of good things.
Merry Christmas and Maranatha!