Celebrating mankind’s champion

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” The difference of opinion regarding the meaning of this verse is having a huge effect on the Republican primaries. (Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney radically disagree on what “God with us” means.) Orthodox Christians, going back to the first church councils, on the other hand, had uniform agreement on what this meant: The eternal son of God became a man. Some mistakenly think Christianity is a 2,000-year-old religion. Not so! The son of God did not become the son of God when he was born in Bethlehem. The son of God became flesh when he was born in Bethlehem. The son of God is eternal with no beginning and no end. One of the non-negotiable tenets of the Christian faith is this (what the eggheads call) hypostatic union – that in Jesus is united the fullness of man with the fullness of God. Why is this so critical? Why was it necessary that God would become flesh and dwell among us? Because mankind needed a champion and everyone came up short. We were all like the Israelites shaking and clattering in our armor while being taunted by Goliath. Our greatest enemy (I would argue that it is the devil and his death) shakes his fist at us and we’re helpless against it. We needed someone like David who, although he didn’t look that impressive, would march down the hill and cut off death’s head. Mankind needed a champion to negotiate peace. As a race we’ve offended the verities. We’ve sullied all that is good and honorable and truthful and beautiful. Mankind offends perfection. And since everything virtuous flows from the character and nature of God (without whom these attributes cannot even be defined), the human race has offended God. The Edict of Milan by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 313 A.D. made Christianity a “legal religion.” Constantine sought to Christianize the empire. (He was the first Christian emperor, and only one after him would not be a Christian.) One method of making Rome a Christian state was to transform pagan holidays into Christian holidays. Although it is difficult to directly attribute it to Constantine, the earliest reference to Christmas being on Dec. 25 was in 360 A.D. It is unlikely an accurate date. For some reason people are under the impression this lessens the credibility of the Christian faith. Do they also think that because we celebrate Washington’s birthday on the third Monday in February rather than on his actual birthday (Feb. 22), it detracts from the reality of his work and existence? That would be silly. Quite frankly the date is meaningless. Evangelical Christians only have one true holy day, Sunday (with all due respect to Seventh Day Adventists). But if the culture wants to celebrate the birth of Jesus, I’m all for it – I love Christmas. So just what is the meaning of Christmas? The Bible says: We need help. We need help because one of the virtues of God is justice. God does not pretend sin didn’t happen. The forgiveness of God is not a matter of ignoring evil. God is a just God. And being true to his own character, he must punish sin. And, according to the Scriptures, the punishment for sin is death. Mankind needed a champion, a mediator who would step between us and what we deserve. (In the Old Testament they called it a scapegoat.) The eternal son of God became a man so that he might die the death that we deserved. We needed someone to represent us. We’re humans, so we needed a human. (Jesus didn’t die for angels.) This is why the baby Jesus was born and laid in a feeding trough. But why is it so critical that the baby Jesus also be God? Though many evangelicals cling for dear life to the deity (godhood) of Christ, few can explain why it is central to their faith. The answer is because of the type of the death Jesus would die – what might be called the fullness of death. The Apostle’s Creed reflects this fullness of death by stating that Jesus was crucified, died, was buried and descended into hell. In short, the hell that men deserved, Jesus took. It adds a new dimension to the idea of his death. Why was it requisite that Jesus should be God? That he might keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God in hell, and the power of death. Mankind needed a champion. He was provided in Christ, Immanuel – God with us. The Rev. Paul Viggiano is pastor of the Branch of Hope Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Torrance (e-mail: PastorPaul@integrity.com).160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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