God put eternity into the hearts of men said the writer of Ecclesiastes, and Jesus is the answer to that longing that is built into us. We live imperfect, flawed lives, and then we die. The writer of Ecclesiastes says that “all is meaningless.” We came from dust and to dust we return, but when Jesus Christ was born, he introduced the antidote to that condition of sin and death.
The sins and wrongs of fathers and mothers pass down to their sons and daughters and have done so from the beginning. In Jesus, God introduced a new lineage and a new possibility. Born a man, but also born of God, through Jesus comes the answer to the finite frailty that is humankind.
The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the core of the Gospel. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, all of our hope is in vain. If miracles are not real, then the atheists are right that we are to be despised. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, there is no escape from the injustices that will never be righted in this life and from the oblivion to follow.
In I Corinthians 15:1-19, Paul acknowledges these things and supports his claim to the truth of the message of the Gospel by listing the eye witnesses to the risen Christ: Peter and “the twelve”; then to “more than five hundred” at one time; then to James and all the apostles. When he wrote this letter, Paul says, most of the five hundred “are still alive, though some have fallen asleep”.
The people Paul listed were alive at the time of Jesus, witnessed the risen Jesus after he was crucified, died and was buried and most of them were still alive when Paul wrote this letter.
The account of Jesus is not meant to be merely a story. It is not meant to be allegory. The Gospels, the message of Paul and of all of the books of the New Testament rest on a foundation that was chronicled in history.
This Christmas and every Christmas we remember the birth of our Savior in real time, in a real manger, born to real people. It is the chronicle of God inserting Himself into this material world to bring about a real change. It is the pivotal point in the history of man.
He did not come with trumpets blaring or displays of unquestionable power. He came in humble condition in gentle, vulnerable fashion. Why?
The root of sin is pride. (Satan’s temptation appealed to that pride: God does not want you to eat this fruit, because if you eat this fruit, you will have knowledge and be like God.) God wants us to be like Him; He made us like Him; but we are only like God; we can never be God.
God inserted Himself into the world in a way that requires us to have faith in something beyond our own ability to understand. He came in a way that only the humble of heart can (or are willing to) grasp. He came in a way that appeals to a willingness to recognize the truth – that we are flawed, imperfect, sinful and in need of help that must come from beyond us. He came in a way that does not appeal to the prideful, the arrogant, or people unwilling to submit to help from an outside source. He came in a way that was designed to evoke the reaction God seeks – humility, acceptance, thankfulness, gratitude, love.
We must acknowledge our limitations to know God. We must come to know and understand our dependence on Him to become His children. We can only comprehend and receive God on His terms, but His terms are not onerous. In fact, His burden is light; it is full of blessing; it is the only way that offers life; it is the antidote to sin and death.
God placed eternity into men’s hearts, and God provides the answer for that longing in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who became vulnerable – like us – to lead us to Himself.