Today Christians all over the world celebrate Christmas day, the traditionally accepted day as the birthday of Jesus Christ. Nobody, for sure, knows exactly on which day Jesus was born. This uncertainty has not stopped to enjoy the blessings of Christmas celebrating the nativity of the eternal Christ on this day. Christianity preaches the spiritual truth that it is a matter of his birth and dwelling in the believers’ hearts that makes the difference. Christ said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Life in its fullness, authentic and meaningful life is what Jesus meant. We are born to this world with a purpose or a goal. This is to glorify God and enjoy our life fully. This does not necessarily mean that we must have lot of property, riches and worldly power or affluence. This means our life should be God-centered and also the same time man-centered. This is life of love towards God and also respect for all of God’s creation, primarily our fellow beings. Christ taught that the greatest commandments in the Holy Bible are: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This may be seen as the précis of the entire Bible.
In our world many people have to do their best to exist, but few live! Few can live lives fully and abundantly. Ours is a world of selfishness, greed, injustice and violence. But God is holy, just and gracious. His love is for all human beings: they are all image-bearers of God. In the Bible we find those three cardinal attributes of God supremely and fully revealed in the life and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ disciple John testified about his Master thus: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth . . . From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the Law given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side has made him known” (John 1:14-19).The Eternal Word of God became incarnated in flesh in the person of Jesus. He fully revealed the Father in human flesh. Grace and truth did exist under the Mosaic Law, but these characteristics of God became embodied in Christ. In Jesus we have the supreme manifestation of God incarnated in human form. God’s essential nature and character is present in him. Apostle Paul wrote, “Christ is the image of the invisible God, first-born of all creation” (Colossians 1:15); and Hebrews says, “Christ “is the exact representation of God’s being”. The most ancient manuscript of the gospel according to John has the phrase ‘the only begotten God (in original Greek language ‘monogenēs theos’). So the Johannine testimony is that Jesus is God-incarnate, the unique revelation of God.
The incarnation has always been a great mystery. But if we believe in God, who created everything by his Word, who created everything out of nothing, ex nihilo this mystery does not remain. The salvation of mankind from the slavery of Satan and sin has ever since the fall of man the heart-cry of God, the supremely loving Being, whose greatest mission is for reconciling sinful man to himself. God is holy and just. So sin must be paid. Sinful man cannot pay this price. So in his redeeming love God came to pay that price. That’s how the sinless Jesus Christ made the supreme sacrifice for the satisfaction of God’s dual standard of his steadfast love and justice.
We need to understand why God appeared into the world as a human person. The Old Testament foreshadowed and pointed to Christ. He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, I have not come to abolish them to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Christ came to the world to show how God is. This means that God is holy, righteous and merciful. He wants to reconcile man to him. Sin, making man totally depraved, has alienated him from God. The central claim of Christianity is that the God of the Old Testament revelation has come to the world in Christ Jesus to supremely reveal how good, just and loving God is.
God’s righteousness and justice are his innate attributes without which he cannot be God. We often talk of God’s love and grace, and we give much emphasis on them. However, we must not forget that God’s love in not unconditional. The Bible never speaks about God having unconditional love. God is indescribably holy too. “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong”, so spoke the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk. Isaiah, acclaimed as the Prince of prophets has recorded in his book God rebuking the ancient Israelite people thus, “. . . wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1: 16-17). This picture has always been in human societies. Sin has so corrupted man that his will, intelligence, emotion have all been leading man to selfishness, lust and arrogant. Fallen man has nothing of his own to will to come to God, but he has everything to go against him.
Materialism, secular humanism, consumerism serve the altars of unjust socio-economic structures that only render the lives of too many people in the world at large miserable and slavish. People somehow exist, but have no meaning and fulfillment of live! We live in a world where rich become richer, poor people become poorer. Lives of millions are rendered without any human dignity and honor. Our world needs to live the human values more and more than any man-made traditions surrounding many religious tenets. The pristine human quest for justice, peace and harmony among people anywhere in this world cannot be satisfied unless live what we believe, unless we walk the talk, unless we have right and life-oriented interpretation of our religions.
Christmas brings us the message of transformation of our hearts. No human inventions or innovation in any area of life will bear any good result unless we have a real change in our hearts, our mind-set in our attitude to life and the world. To live life that glorifies God and serve other people we need to be good at heart. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverb 4:23). May the love and peace God dwell in our hearts!
The writer is a Christian theology teacher