This week, we feature two Christmas reflections written by local Christian leaders: Kelly Madden, Director of the Boston Fellows and member of the Church of the Cross, and Sherami Hinders who is on staff at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and a member of Highrock Arlington. These are timely reads as Christians throughout the world celebrate the significance of God becoming human in the person of Jesus Christ.
How Long Did Jesus Live as a Man?
By Dr. Kelly Madden
God became man. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” Luke 1:31
O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
“How long did Jesus live as a man?” I often ask, when teaching.
“Thirty-three years,” my hearers obligingly answer.
“No, it’s a trick question,” I warn them, with a smile.
(But it’s not, really; it’s no arcane bit of theology.)
“He is still a man. He still has a body.”
If this idea is new to you, too, then let me say, first: This is not controversial. Not a “Some-scholars-would-say” technicality. No, this is as biblically-basic and historically-orthodox as it gets.
He was conceived and born and lived in a body, suffered and died in a body, was buried, rose again in a body, ascended to the right hand of the Father in a body, and will return again to judge the living and the dead in a human body.
That’s bare-bones Christian teaching and if you don’t know it, then I hope this provokes a couple of reactions in you.
First, I hope it makes you a little angry that no one has ever taught you this foundational truth. I hope it causes you to wonder about what other basic beliefs have eluded so much of the church today, despite our claims to hold the Bible as our final authority.
Second, I hope it will spur you to pay attention to what I’m going to say next. Because this matters.
God took on human form forever. He chose to live as a human being, not just for a few decades, but for all of eternity forward.
That shows the level of his commitment to us, of his love for us.
Of course, we must soon go on to talk about the cross and his ultimate demonstration of love for us. But not today.
Today, just let such thoughts fill your mind and emotions during this season, as they did Mary’s, as she tried to grasp, in faith and wonder, what the angel was telling her, and the meaning of later events.
Ponder. What difference does it make?
It says everything about God’s commitment to our physical and material well-being. Don’t let the perversions of the prosperity gospel throw you off here. Jesus became man to save us.
Save us from what?
Well, whadya got? He came to save you from that.
From sin and judgment. But not just to save some narrow, invisible, interior part of you, apart from your daily indifference to God and the challenges of a boss who’s a jerk and financial slavery and a child in need and personal tragedy and that nasty habit that’s keeping you from joy in Jesus and a dull sense of desperation about where your life is headed and a fear of being alone and the injustices you see in your own life and others’ and in society and… and….
No, he came to save you—to save all of us, in our lonely-together lostness apart from God—from all that. From that.
The Gospel of Luke is not talking about salvation from injustice and disease and suffering as merely spiritual metaphors. Jesus is Lord and Savior of the hard-edged realities we live every day.
We have been saved, we are being saved, we will be saved. “Advent” means “coming” and is a season of looking and longing and preparing for his second coming, as much as his first. Maranatha. Already, but not yet.
Kelly Madden, PhD, MDiv, is Executive Director of the Boston Fellows, a nine-month fellowship for Christian professionals from Boston-area churches of many denominations. It seeks to help the churches equip their emerging leaders with a theology of vocation, work, and rest and the spiritual disciplines necessary for workplace excellence in service to Christ and the world.
The Wonder of Christmas
By Sherami Hinders
“The Lord answered Job… ‘Where were you… when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?’” ~Job 38:1, 4, 7
I spent this Thanksgiving at a home in the woods, and when I retrieved my overnight bag from the car that evening I had a moment of silence, away from the pie-scraped plates being washed and the giggles of children running circles while they burned through their sugar rushes. And, in that moment of quiet, wooded silence, I looked up. Heaven’s skies proved faithful once again, and there I noticed Cassiopeia… that famously W-shaped constellation.
“Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.” ~Isaiah 40:25-26
I was immediately taken back in time: one of my most real moments from my second summer in Mongolia as a college student involved Cassiopeia. I was at a camp in the wilderness with dozens of beautiful children, orphaned and aching for love (yet somehow filled with so much of it to give). And as I looked up into the camp’s night sky, I saw it. My eyes took Cassiopeia in, and I marveled… What a creation God has made, that this simple constellation I saw all my years in Iowa also glows across the seas in this foreign land, for these little ones to see.
“You must be so big, God.”
And here I saw it again… this same constellation, nearly two decades later, on the edge of the Atlantic. In my limited awareness, I assume the stars remain silent. But truth is, Cassiopeia witnesses to its Creator without missing a day. Sometimes hidden from sight, sometimes because I forget to look up… but if I still myself enough, if I remember to look for God’s glory around me, if I step away from the noise of artificial light and hurried clamor, I find it again.
I wonder at the wisemen so many years ago, who journeyed by way of a mysterious star… A star whose witness announced the greatest mystery of all: God has come into our world! As one of us, in form of tender babe. God has come into our world to live with us, die for us, rise and rescue us… a mystery more real than all my mechanical assurances with which I try to surround myself.
May God’s good mystery kindly overwhelm us this Christmas season, that our bend toward the mechanical and controlled may straighten. May we stand a bit more upright… so we might take in God’s stars, our ears ever closer to hear the songs of heaven.
“In heaven… they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy… because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’” ~ Revelation 4:1a, 5:9-10
What incredible news these heavenly choirs proclaim!
What memories linger for you from 2019 when creation (light or land, skies or seas, animals or Adams) witnessed to God-with-us?
Sherami Hinders works for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA as a National Scripture Engagement Specialist and a New England Coordinator for Spiritual Formation and Prayer. She is certified as a Spiritual Director and will complete her Master of Arts in Theology this spring.