When I say Christmas, I will bet that the first thing that comes to your mind is not “the incarnation of God the Son”. I’ll bet the image in your mind has something to do with a manger and a baby and shepherds and wise men, or something along those lines.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. But I had an interesting conversation last December with Bob, our retired Associate Rector, regarding Christmas and it’s meaning. And he offered the following insight. He said that we should consider the gospel account of Mark, which Mark’s Gospel is the earliest gospel, believed to have been recorded by Mark a follower of Peter, directly from Peter’s eyewitness account while he was imprisoned in Rome awaiting his fate. Bob’s point was that Mark says nothing, absolutely nothing about the birth of Jesus.
Mark Chapter 1, verse 1 says this: 1The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
And then Mark introduces John the Baptist, and then verse 9 is the very next thing he says about Jesus, and he says: 9At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
Jesus springs onto the scene at the start of his ministry, fully grown and without any fanfare of shepherds, angels or wise men.
So Bob said to me, “If all we had surviving was Mark’s gospel, and we knew nothing of the Nativity story, would it matter? Would he still be King of Kings and Lord of Lords?”
And the answer is, of course. This is where we encounter the next line of the section of the Nicene Creed regarding the incarnation: he came down from heaven. What ultimately matters is his coming down from heaven to die in our place, to be forsaken so that we need never be, to defeat death so that the coffin is no longer the final answer for us. Not the shepherds, not the wise men, none of it. After all, they like us are objects in the story, not the subject. The subject is Christ coming down from heaven into the world to save us.
You see, Christmas matters because the cross and resurrection matter. As we get older, we find that the Christmas season is in some ways tinged with sadness because of loved-ones no longer with us that we long at Christmas to put our arms around. But if we believe the truth of Christ’s death and resurrection, then we know that we will see them again, death is not the end.
And that would be true even if the nativity story was not known and this entire holiday never existed.
In Part 4 of this series, we will consider the prophesies regarding the birth of Christ through the Gospels of Mathew and Luke. But to end this section, I found this wonderful video that gives a very different viewpoint of Jesus’ birth, apart from all of the pomp and gilding that we’ve placed around the Nativity: