Incarnation

A Key for Christmas

A sermon preached at Calvary Baptist Church in Simpsonville, SC in 2016.

Isaiah 22, Revelation 3:7-13

Imagine with me that on Christmas morning, one of the gifts you receive is a small box. You hold it in your hands, and it isn’t very heavy. You shake it and it rattles a little. You know that good gifts come in small packages, so you tear off the paper with anticipation. Inside you find a key. Would you be excited?

What thought goes through your head? “What does this key fit?” It could be the key to a car. That would be a nice gift, wouldn’t it? It could be the key to a boat, or a Wave Runner, or a four-wheeler, or maybe a snowmobile. (That wouldn’t be so exciting in South Carolina, more so in Iowa where I live now.)

The point is, you know that the key itself is not the gift. The key represents the gift, and it gives you ownership of the real gift and the ability to use the gift, whatever it is.

The Bible talks about a key that is associated with our celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth. Three different people are said to have this key. The key represents authority and control. Each person uses the authority and control that comes with the key differently.

As we look at what the Bible says about this key, see if you can think of how it connects to Christmas. No Googling!

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Theology Thursday – Anselm on the Incarnation

Anselm published the final version of Why God Became Man in 1094. It’s a stunning achievement, structured around a fictional dialogue between himself and a curious student, named Boso. It’s popular among many Christians to assume the medieval period was a “dark age” for the church; a time of intellectual bankruptcy and stagnation. Anselm’s work proves that theory wrong.

Step by step, like a Terminator after his prey, Anselm remorselessly and relentlessly proves the necessity and purpose of the incarnation. This book is one of the most important theological works you can read on the incarnation, sin and atonement.

In this excerpt, Anslem discusses whether Christ’s death was truly willing and voluntary:1

Boso: How it is that, even granted that the lowly things of which we speak with reference to Christ do not pertain to his divinity, it may seem to unbelievers that it is inappropriate that they are said of him even with reference to his humanity. How it is, consequently, that it may seem to them that this same man did not die voluntarily?

Anselm: When God does something, ‘the will of God’ ought to be sufficient explanation for us, even if we do not see why it is his will; for the will of God is never irrational.

Boso: That is true, supposing it is agreed that God’s will lay behind the action. The fact is that many people in no way accept that God wishes something, if reason seems to conflict with it.

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Theology Thursday - Athanasius on the Incarnation

This is an excerpt from Athanasius’ work, entitled On the Incarnation of the Word. Here he describes one of the reasons for the incarnation:1

§ 6. The human race then was wasting, God’s image was being effaced, and His work ruined. Either, then, God must forego His spoken word by which man had incurred ruin; or that which had shared in the being of the Word must sink back again into destruction, in which case God’s design would be defeated. What then? Was God’s goodness to suffer this? But if so, why had man been made? It would have been weakness, not goodness on God’s part.

For this cause, then, death having gained upon men, and corruption abiding upon them, the race of man was perishing; the rational man made in God’s image was disappearing, and the handiwork of God was in process of dissolution.

For death, as I said above, gained from that time forth a legal hold over us, and it was impossible to evade the law, since it had been laid down by God because of the transgression, and the result was in truth at once monstrous and unseemly.

For it were monstrous, firstly, that God, having spoken, should prove false—that, when once He had ordained that man, if he transgressed the commandment, should die the death, after the transgression man should not die, but God’s word should be broken. For God would not be true, if, when He had said we should die, man died not.

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What Child Is This?

"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Caravaggio (1609)

Jesus’ birth was the beginning of the end for Satan and his kingdom of darkness. That old serpent, the devil, tried his best to stop Christ from coming into the world. He knew if he failed, his fate would be sealed. Over and over again, Satan tried. 

In the wicked man Haman, he came near to pulling off a mass genocide of Israelites – cutting off Christ before He could come. Through Herod, he slaughtered untold numbers of young children in the region around Bethlehem (Mt 2:16-18).

The Apostle John summed up the matter in his vision of the dragon and the woman (Rev 12:4b-5a).  Satan tried to stop His own Creator, God’s unique and one and only Son, from coming into the world. He failed. Instead, Jesus completed His work, then “was caught up to God and to his throne.”

Why did Christ come? He came to save us from ourselves.

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Why We Rejoice

Especially at this time of the year, Christians all over the world are making public statements about the supreme gift God the Father made to mankind: His own eternal Son, Jesus Christ the Lord.

For hundreds of years before the Lord Jesus arrived on planet Earth, the Father had promised to His people Israel that His Son was coming to provide salvation to those who would believe in Him. For example, Moses wrote:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear… And [God the Father confirmed that] it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. (NKJV, Deut. 18:15-19; cf. Acts 3:22)

In His own words, the Son of God explained through the prophet Isaiah (700 years before He added a true and complete human nature to His eternal divine nature):

Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was [the Creation], I was there. And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me. (Isa. 48:16)

Also,

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor… To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn. (Isa. 61:1, 2; cf. Luke 4:18, 19)

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Rachel Still Weeps

Jakob Steinhardt - Rachel Mourning Her Children - 1953 (art.famsf.org)

Originally posted at Sometimes a Light, December 16.

“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:18)

It’s happened again—only this time it wasn’t in Connecticut but almost 7,000 miles away in Peshawar, Pakistan. This morning, gunmen broke into classrooms and slaughtered boys and girls as they sat learning. It’s a story we know too well: December. School. Children. Death.

Tonight, parents will return to empty beds; food will be left uneaten; and a soccer ball will stand in the courtyard, still and unmoving. And just as they did two years ago, despite the divide of language and culture, our own mother—and father—hearts will crack, life and hope leaking out of us, as we wonder how is there any meaning in this?

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