In the world, but not of it – or, ‘Christmas: when God turned up’

The season is Christmas, the reason is Jesus. While most people will recognise that Christmas ultimately has some links to Christian beliefs about Jesus, many will have questions about whether such accounts can be taken seriously. On the face of it, they may well appear to fit the genre of ‘myth’ closer than that of ‘reality’. After all it’s just a ‘story’, right?

The two categories I shall look into here are the historical and the philosophical/theological. Over the next few days I’ll fill out what I think about a few of these things. Feel free to comment on what you find most interesting or troubling. Before I move on to objections or common problems people have, let me spell out the Christmas story and some of its broader context. While this is the short version, it’s not dumbed down; some of you may find the technical details distracting or extraneous, but I think it’s important to tell it as I see it, ideally giving you the opportunity to work out what precisely you find appealing and what you find difficult. If it’s really true, I think there should be a little bit of both in here.

Before the physical universe began, God was. God is a personal being – in some ways analogous to human persons and in some ways not so much. The back-story of divinity is that from eternity, God the Father has existed with the uncreated Divine Word and the Holy Spirit, in perfect power, knowledge and love.

God created the world, giving it order and beauty and diversity. The world is contingent, in that it is created as a free choice of God, out of the outflow of love within the Godhead. God shaped the earth, with its various environments, habitats and creatures.

Human persons were created in the ‘image’ of God, with capacities of rational reflection and imagination and the ability to act on these, with commensurate responsibility for our environment, to “work it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). These persons were established in community with each other and with God. This intention for relationship was soon broken, however.

Model Community and the Agreement with God

In a broken world, beset by evil, God set aside a people, for God. They were to live with God in their midst and from them was to come the answer to the systematic tears in moral, societal and natural reality.

The Messiah arrives
In the fullness of time, God sends the one for whom His people have been hoping. Not just a human king, but the LORD comes to His temple in a way not hitherto experienced. He comes to live a perfect life, to inaugurate the true Kingdom of God on Earth. He comes not as a mighty warrior, meting out justice (though that will come), but rather as an infant – dependent and frail. In order to gloriously rule over the created cosmos, drawing together eternal spiritual reality and created matter under one head, the Divine Word takes on a truly human nature.

Now for the questions

1) The historical:

Did Jesus exist? (Yep.)
What are our sources? Are they reliable? (Primarily the documents collected together in the New Testament. And, yep.)
The census.
The order of events.
Is this all a miracle? Can it be accepted?

2) The philosophical/theological:

Does God exist?
Has God spoken in the Christian scriptures, the Bible?
What is God like? (God is love.)
Did God, as these scriptures claim, in some way become a man?
How could that be?
Is this relevant to me? Yes.

The bridging question (between 1 and 2):

Does Jesus have authority? (What is his relationship to God?) Here.

over the next few days some thoughts on these things shall appear here, along with links to talks, articles, books etc that I’ve found useful or interesting …

Have an awesome Christmas.


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