December 26, 2019

Christmas Theological Discourse from Dr Shawn Smith

Christmas Theological Discourse from Dr Shawn Smith

At the end of the first century, Apostle John was asked by the Christians of the time to leave a record of the ministry of Jesus as he had borne witness throughout his lifetime. At this moment, the apostle John was the only surviving of the Twelve. Apostle Paul, as well as the other sent ones of our Lord, had been martyred and sealed their witness to the living Christ with their own blood. Towards the end of the first century, there was also a falsified Christology known as Gnosticism, which claimed that God could not embrace the materiality or physicality of cosmos.  To refute such a claim, John had earlier written his first epistle; also the second and third were to address issues regarding church administration and walking in doctrinal accuracy to uphold apostolicity and orthodoxy.

 

But now, the Christians, knowing that his departure was nigh, requested him on his part to also leave a record of the life of Jesus Christ. He who was known as the beloved, he who was the disciple known for his greater proximity with the Lord, wrote what we find in the gospel of Saint John. But after having written what would become the last book of the New Testament, he felt completely unsatisfied. He did not know whether it was a need for a conclusion. After three days of fasting and prayers according to tradition, Apostle John writes what is now found in John 1:1-18. In the prologue, Apostle John affirms his Jewish upbringing that states that the beginning of all things is originated in God. But there is a strict departure, indicating a transition from Judaism to a new age, by speaking of a beginning before the beginning Moses wrote of in Genesis 1.

 

In the beginning, was the Logos. He does not begin with the birth of Christ; He does not even begin as the other evangelists with the commencement of His messianic ministry at baptism. He begins before the beginning. This Logos who was incarnate as Jesus Christ pre-exists the beginning. He is eternal, uncreated, ageless, thus before time. May the fact that He was born as a child and grew as a man, and was contextualized within the ages of history not eclipse from us the fact that this is very God of very God, who is without beginning: the Eternal Christ, ageless, the very Logos of God, the Knowledge God has of Himself. John is implying to His Jewish audience that this Jesus of Nazareth whom they so despised and condemned to be crucified upon the tree, was the Creator Himself who had walked among us.

 

To other devout followers of Abrahamic faith, who uphold monotheism, this is the point of departure between you and us. You consider it a scandal that the uncircumscribed would confine Himself to time and space. Yet I present before you a paradox: if it is something unthinkable for you to say God became a man, does your “God” therefore have something they cannot do?

Before creation, John presents us with the Logos of God. Logos is taken from a Greek philosophical concept of that which operates a system of thoughts. The embodiment of a system conceptualized is called Logos. We use it in speaking of subjects and matters. For instance, in Biology, we speak of the logos of bios, the logos of life. In Theology, we speak of the Logos of God. To uphold logos would imply to master, to conceptualize, to lay forth bare to the understanding all that concerns a particular subject. To speak of Jesus the incarnate One as the Logos of God implies that to know God is impossible apart from Jesus. Jesus Christ is perfect theology. Jesus Christ makes the ineffable so common, that men have the audacity to despise Him.

The Logos is with God, which speaks of a distinction between God and the Logos, but yet, the mystery of mysteries, He is God, which speaks of sameness. It speaks of unity and distinction. HE is with God, which is the Greek word pros, meaning not just face to face, but indicates the most intimate of all relationships, a longing after, a giving and reciprocity of what is given.  John centers our Genesis not in the creation of the cosmos but before it, in the relationship of all relationships, our God Himself whose very nature is relationship. It is this relationship that becomes infleshed; it is this Life of the Trinity that becomes incarnate when He is made the human one. He transits in his language within the prologue of, first of all, speaking of Christ before the incarnation as the One and only Son, speaking of the special relationship between the Father and the Son. But yet, in the incarnation, while not ceasing to be God, it says, He came among us. Notice the transition from the one and only to the One who is simply among and behold the great humility of the One who is our God, who is not ashamed to stoop down low; He who is one and only to come among, to be identified in solidarity with us, to the very creation which He ordered, and not be recognized.

The heart of the incarnation shows us that our God is a sharing God; not only to share with us His own Life but that we are summoned to see it and to believe it. The assumption of our humanity by the Logos is also called by John the true light shining in the darkness. These are themes which he, as well as the apostle Paul developed in their epistles. The same way light shines in the midst of darkness, the descent of the Godman in our humanity assumed our fallen condition yet, He was unaffected by it, the same way light cannot be affected by darkness. But He did enter our darkness nonetheless.  He entered our darkness, which gives us another concept of hamartiology, of this issue called sin. We would expect in the redemptive metaphoric language him speaking of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and we read that John the Baptist used such imagery. John speaks about Jesus the true light that comes to enlighten every man that enters into this world. He speaks of the issue of sin as darkness, as obscurity. For us to appreciate this, let us go to the very beginning of Genesis where we find Adam and Eve, the first parents according to the teachings of Moses, who, after they had sinned, went and hid from what they perceived to be the wrath of God. They covered themselves with the apron of fig leaves. They hid as they heard the voice of God walking in the garden. This is the meaning of darkness.

How is an infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, all-powerful, uncircumscribable God, to reach His creation? And these creatures are ignorant of the fact that the reason for everything and the reason why He called forth the whole cosmos is that they would share in His Life. But now, they are hiding from their own delusion, they are hiding from the distorted portrait of God that they have painted with their fears and misconceptions. How is He to reach to them to reveal the purpose and the telos for which He created them? There is no other option but for He Himself to become what they are. That the one and only comes to walk among and comes in the midst of the bushes behind which we hid, shivering in our fig leaves, and reveals to us the true reveal to us the true light, that enlightens the heart of every man.

The incarnation reveals the extent to which God has gone and to which He is willing to go in order not to let go of anyone of us. In the fullness of time, He came through the virgin womb, went to hell and back, than rather deny the purpose for which we were created. According to the traditions of the church fathers, we use a strong language, which has been said on multiple occasions, “He chose not to be God apart from man, but He chose to be the God with man, in man, as man. When we understand the incarnation, we see that God’s creative act is not mere craftsmanship; it is not God using His power to bring about something out of nothing, which is known as creation ex nihilo. It is creation from the relationship that He is. That is why He has refused to allow us to go to nothingness. He could not accept a creation fearing a portrait of Him which was not true.

There is no plan B with God. Union is not an afterthought to remedy Adam’s fall; it is the very nature of God’s being, and it is for union that we were created. If for any reason we are to doubt the primacy of union, let us take one more glimpse and look at what happened that evening in Bethlehem, as the heavens and choirs of angels rejoiced to behold for the first time the face of God revealed in the Man, Christ Jesus. The incarnation is not a temporary visit of God, but from this moment onward, even till now until the eternal ages, in the consummation of things to come, He will be the Godman. And yes, in His glorified body, He chose to keep the marks of His crucifixion, the sign of how our sins wounded God, and the sign that He bore; His scars were inflicted upon Him as a badge of honor.

It is only God that can save. No prophet, teacher, guide, can promise what they themselves cannot generate. This was what the disciples were trying to guarantee for themselves when Philip asked the question, where are you going? Where would we know to follow you if you do not show us the way? At least show us the Father, and that will suffice. Until Jesus, none had come to speak of God from an insider perspective. Each spoke as a guide trying to get to where they themselves had never been. Jesus politely called them, blind guides leading the blind.

Only God can save.  Unless this God entered creation to assume the form of man, then man who is the one to be saved cannot for certain be saved. God could decide to save us by any other means, but unless He Himself became man, man would have no guarantee, no certification, no assurance as to whether he could attain salvation. It is something that would have to be left unknown until the final moments and it would be on the Day of Judgment that we are all going to find out. But if this God who alone has the power to save takes on human form, assuring us of the object and subject of salvation, then in this incarnate Savior, we have a joy and assurance unshakable.

As human beings, we exert ourselves to always grow beyond our humanness. When we look at the innovations, man is attempting the transhumanization of our species through technology, advancements of science. Man wants to eliminate all of what he perceives to be the limits of man. I simply call transhumanism, the failed attempt at theosis. Man thinks by artificially inducing solutions to mortality. He can transcend death, but death is not an issue of technology. While we exert ourselves to grow beyond our humanity: for instance, speaking of the nanotech to extend the life of cells, nanotech that would operate on cancerous cells before they develop, the first artificial heart that is guaranteed to pump for 280 years, is already in trial. Various corporations have ongoing experiments at transferring the human consciousness from our bodies into a non-carbon based body. Failed attempts at theosis.

God did not despise this carbon-based body, but He assumed it, He did not just become a man, but He became flesh. “Flesh” means He became a man with all the frailties and all of the discomforts that pertain to our humanness. The humanity which Jesus bore was subject to the environment. He would sweat as a result of heat; He did not have a continual cloud over His head with heavenly air conditioning. His stomach was not always supernaturally full, His clothes did not self-wash themselves; His body did not auto-bathe itself. At all points, He was tempted as we are, but yet without sin. This is the doctrine of the impeccability of our Lord Jesus Christ. He did not sin but was tempted at all points by all things. He did not despise our frailty, but He becomes man to transform man.

The Gospel re-humanizes us. If ever there was a time for us to become aware that we need a re-humanization, it is such a time like this, where we have seen death portrayed so many times that it no more means anything to us, when the shedding of innocent blood is met with cold response, when corruption is viewed as a way of living, when we forget that 2000 years ago, that neighbor you despised could have been God in the flesh. We need a re-vitalization and actualization of what it means to be human.

Do we truly see how much God loves man? John tells us if we claim to love the God whom we do not see, but hate, despise and lightly esteem the man whom we see, we cannot claim to know this God who was revealed as man. What is the uniqueness of this God who became man? You may ask the question? In what sense is this God who became man unique? I will commend you for your question, but I wish to remind you that no one ever will be God incarnate. The fact He became man should not blind you of the fact that it is God Himself who is the Creator of all things that entered into this domain, that in Him we may participate in the nature of God. Let it be known that no one else will ever be the self-revelation of God in person, but through His indwelling, He addresses the cosmos through us as His living epistles. Let it be known that no one else will ever be the crucified God of mercy, who saves humanity from sin and death by assuming it. But we through Him await life and immortality. Let it be known that no one else will ever be called Lord and creator of all things, but He has invited us and summoned us to sit with Him at His Father’s right hand. His uniqueness is unparalleled, but His humility is incomprehensible still. That God and man, Creator and creation, eternity and time, spirit and matter, the Trinity and humanity were made one, that is the meaning of the incarnation. Amen.

 

 

 

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This article is extracted from the Christmas Service” by Dr. Shawn Smith. For the complete message, visit gcmonlinestore.com or write to gcmrelate@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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