It's two days after Christmas and for many the abrupt transition back to normal life signals a loss of the Christmas spirit. After all, it's all well and good to hype one's self up on feelings of good cheer and generosity once a year. But two days after singing "no more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground," sin and sorrow seem to remain in full force. How can one truly proclaim "he comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found" while another year takes its last breath – its optimistic promises of 12 months earlier unrealized in the wake of shootings from Colorado to Connecticut, wars in Syria and Gaza, and countless other events that bring us up close and personal with Adam's curse.
If God truly became man two millenia ago for the sake of reconciling all things to himself, then why are things still such a wreck?
Already, but Not Yet
"God is in heaven, and thou art on earth," says the Teacher. "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end" (Ecc 5:2; 3:11).
That eternity set in the heart of man instills a desire for something greater than the world we're currently in. It points to a reality that is greater than ourselves. It shows us that we're not made for a world where sin and sorrow reign. It highlights our thirst for blessings to flow as far as the curse is found.
But if the non-believer desires to satisfy his thirst through vague concepts of "generosity," "peace" and "goodwill," he will always find himself empty. Without a transcendent source, those vague concepts will always fail to satisfy because they demand satisfaction from the only other alternative – fallen, sinful man.
In the Incarnation, we see true "peace on earth" and "goodwill towards man" because we see its Divine source – the greater reality that we long for. Salvation is open to all who will receive it, a manifestation that God is with us. But God also makes everything beautiful in its time. He is writing a story of redemption that requires both the Incarnation and the Second Coming. The Incarnation brings us the justification of our sins, the seal that we are already children of God. The Second Coming points us to the fact that there's a greater reality out there, one that we will experience one day, just not yet. It gives us an opportunity to be drawn to Christ and grow in him, slow processes that could not occur if all was set right instantaneously.
It is because the Christian has been brought into right relation with God that he can hope for a time when all reality will be brought into right relation with God. The task of the Christian, then, is to fully live in right relation with God, through communion with Christ and his church and by sharing his love through service to others.
By Nick Barden
Picture: Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds by Govert Flinck (1639)