What do we celebrate at Christmas? Why did Jesus come? If Adam and Eve had not sinned, would Jesus still have come? What is the meaning of ‘salvation’?
Allow me to tell you a story – A true story – a story that has taken thousands of years to be told, a story that began in eternity and that ends in the ultimate happily-ever-after. This is the story of our salvation.
A long, long time ago, in a faraway reality, before the universe exploded into being, before time existed, a Trinitarian existence already was: God the Father – The Lover, a fountain filled and overflowing with pure, unbounded Love; God the Son (“The Eternal Word”) – The Beloved, the only one capable of returning this Love completely, because He was with God, He was in God and He was God; God the Spirit – The Exchange of Love, the desire of the Lover for the Beloved, and the Life-giving procession of Love. But all this Love was so immensely strong, that even the Trinity could not bear to keep it within the God’s own self: Because Love longs to share of itself. And in doing so, Love multiplies.
The very beginning of the first book of the Bible tells us that: The Spirit hovered over the uncreated universe like a mother eagle spreading its wings above its nest, about to give birth. Then, God the Son, the Word of God was then sent forth, and He would only return when He had done the Father’s will – and bit by bit, the Universe started to take shape.
Now, imagine an artist who creates a work of Beauty – a painting, a sculpture, a cathedral, a poem, a book, a garden, a feast. An accident is when something unintended takes place. For a good artist, there are very few accidents, and none that cannot be integrated into the final picture. A really skilled artist knows exactly what he/ she have in mind before they begin, and the really skilled artist has the skill to carry out precisely what they set out to do. For a bad artist, the result is very different from what was intended. For a really good artist, the result is just what was imagined from the very start. And God is the best of artists, and He never makes any mistakes.
Creation: an explosion of Love
Some explosions destroy. This was created. And what would this achieve? Well, God had a plan in mind: Ultimate Union.
Through his Word that went forth, God created magnificent balls of fire that floated in the darkness, and planets to spin around suns. Through His Word that went forth, God created vast lands, and seas and skies, and rock and plants and living creatures, some of which are beyond anything you and I could possibly have imagined. Through His Word that went forth, finally, God created men and women and children to live in Africa, and Asia, and Australia and on every continent on earth, except, maybe, Antarctica.
The Word would only return to the Father after God’s plan was achieved, and God indeed had a plan in mind: Ultimate Union.
God the Son, the Eternal Word that created the Universe, would become the Incarnate Word… This Divine Word would be joined completely with human flesh and mind and heart. God was the Lover and the Universe was beloved of Him, and with this Universe, He would one day be united forever. The Creator and Creation would become one. Ultimate Union indeed.
Creation rejects God
But men and women and children did not always live in the way that God wanted for them. God wished for them to be happy with Him and with each other forever, but they often chose to make themselves and others sad. They hurt each other and they became hurt themselves. The Bible tells us how God sent them Prophets and Priests and Kings, but they would not listen.
Would God become fed up with humanity and the Universe he had created? No, never. He had loved them into being, and He would love them forever. He wanted only the best for them. He would not give up on His plan for the most wonderful thing ever to happen in the history of the universe.
And so, in the middle of a cold, dark night, in a land where people lived in sorrow and fear, because of what they did to themselves and to each other, at a time when people could not ever imagine being happy again, God embraced humanity. In a sin-filled world, God’s Grace and Goodness would still be made known.
In the middle of peoples’ sadness and pain, Jesus Christ was born. Not as a prince in a King’s palace. Not as the son of a rich man. Not as a child of a celebrity couple. And His birth was not announced in the local news.
God embraced our world
He embraced a poor carpenter and his young, frightened wife. He embraced a dirty stable, where cows and sheep and goats and chickens were fed. He embraced a small town that people had forgotten. And His birth was first of all announced to smelly shepherds who were falling asleep in the fields outside.
God embraced everyone, and united Himself with us, with our world, with all of creation. Even though some people would not listen to Him, He still spoke to them. Even though some people hurt Him, He still healed them. Even though some people killed Him, He still forgave them.
By uniting Himself with creation, nothing would ever be able to prevent us from receiving His Love again – not fear, not hate, not indifference, not even death.
The coming of Jesus into our world, through the Annunciation of the Angel and through His Birth in Bethlehem is like a wedding that has taken place. Through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, it is as if the marriage between God and the universe has been consummated. That’s what we celebrate at Christmas. That’s why Jesus came.
And if Adam and Eve never sinned?
So, if you ask, “If Adam and Eve had not sinned, would Jesus still have come?” I would reply, “Why not?” Isn’t the Union between the Creator and Creation simply the most wonderful thing you could possibly think of, that could ever to have happened in the history of the universe?
It’s not as if this Union, in the birth of Jesus Christ, was God’s way of saying, “Oops, I made a mistake, people have done something really bad, things have gotten out of control, we’d better repair it!” Of course, if human beings were not sinful, they would not have killed Jesus. But really, no matter what human beings like you and I might have done, God would still have wanted the Ultimate Union. And Jesus would have come all the same – because that was God’s plan from the beginning of the universe, even before man and women were created.
But, you ask, “Don’t we say that Jesus came because of Adam’s sin?” Well, yes and no. Think of a little boy who was sometimes good and sometimes naughty. One day he did something really bad. But you know what? His mum and his dad forgave him and loved him. And when he grew up, he would tell his friends, “If I did not do that bad thing, I would not have known how much my parents loved me.”
Did his parents love him from the start? Yes. Would they have loved him even if he was good? Of course! Would he have known his parents’ love if he had never been naughty? No question about it. So what did he mean by saying, “If I did not do that bad thing, I would not have known how much my parents loved me.” It’s a figure of speech. He is just saying how grateful he is of their love, which he happened to realise through their forgiveness. But if he had been good, I have no doubt that he would have realised that love all the same.
So, what is the meaning of ‘salvation’, then?
Some people think it’s only about being saved from our sins. Jesus does save us from our sins, by forgiving us, healing us, and helping us to live better lives, but that’s not all! In fact, it’s about being saved for – set aside, specially reserved… we have been saved for the fullness of life and Glory in God!
“One final question,” you ask, “If this is the case, if God has already united himself with us, if we are already saved for eternity, then why is there still sin and suffering in the world?” What an excellent question! Now, think of a nice young man and a lovely young woman who love each other and who have decided to get married. We’d like to think that they will live happily ever after. But let us ask the married folks here – “Do married people always live happily ever after?” We do hope and pray that every couple getting married will have great happiness together. And, chances are, they will. But although their marriage is real, we know they will also face challenges and difficulties. Sometimes they will do things that upset each other in small ways.
Sometimes they will hurt each other in big ways. Still, if they continue to be committed to each other, if they continue to have faith and hope in one another, if they continue to give of themselves to each other, then their love will grow, and one day, they will live happily ever after.
Well, that’s the Story of our Salvation. It’s an Epic Love Story, a story that began a long, long time ago, that is still being told today, about a Dream of a Lover, a Love that conquers all, and a Hope that prevails. The Wedding of the Lamb has taken place. The Marriage is consummated. All that remains for us is to live out its reality.
The End. But it really is just a new beginning!