If Christmas means anything, it is that matter — the stuff of flesh and protons and quarks and quasars — matters. It matters to God. He became it.
It amazes me how often I heard language that spiritualizes Christianity more than God does. Two thousand years after the birth of Christ we still haven’t fully grasped it, and still play around with Greek gnostic-like notions of what it means to be “spiritual”. Christ was not born to make us spiritual, but to make us fully human. Which is why the New Testament refers to Jesus as the “Second Adam” — He is the re-boot of the species. Which is why we can believe that God is making all things new and is making a New Creation . . . because it has already started, in Jesus. His birth — the entrance of the infinite into the finite — the embracing of matter by the God who is spirit — shows us that redemption and New Creation isn’t an escape from the physical, but an embracing and healing of it.
This means that we can enter boldly into the world’s brokenness (and our own brokenness) as sources and catalysts for healing, because we who are Christ-followers are ourselves being made new. As we engage in mission by embracing a broken world through word and deed, we do so NOT because we compulsively are trying to fix the world — NO! — we do so because we have seen a New Creation and we know that it is inevitable and we want to participate today in the unveiling and energizing of it.
This is why it is a very courageous thing to actually believe in the birth of Christ, i.e. to believe that in Jesus, God showed up on the planet and actually became a part of it. God “incarnated”, which means He became flesh. (Think about the food “chili con carne” — that’s chili with meat — “incarnation” comes form the same word — it is God con carne.) It takes courage to believe this because it means that we devote our lives to the continued unfolding of the New Creation. I get to see this all over the world as I travel for CBM: I see Lebanese Baptists befriending Syrian Muslim families and sharing love (and food and medical care etc.) with them; I see Sudanese Baptists offering aid to people displaced by the civil conflict; I see Chinese believers caring for children who have been left behind when their parents went to the city to find work; I see churches building homes for people made homeless by the typhoon in the Philippines. And more. And as these very material changes happen, people get to know the person who began it all: Jesus. Just as the Magi sought him, people today still seek Him, and when they find Him, they become a part of the new Creation that He is making, and they join the team to bring about more of it.
Matter matters. Merry Christmas!