Grace Came Down (part 3)
“Always winter, never Christmas.”
Author and Christian apologist, CS Lewis was once an atheist who, in his words, was ‘very angry that God did not exist.’ After coming to faith he authored many books including the Narnia series, which is rich in allegory to the Christian faith.
The White Witch brought an eternal winter upon Narnia, which as Mr. Beaver pointed out, never culminated in a celebration of Christmas. As events unfold, the snow in Narnia begins to melt. Through a long, intense and inquisitive journey, Lewis came to faith in God and the grace of Christ. As one who had experienced how his own heart was warmed by God’s grace, he used this metaphor of melting snow in the world of Narnia: just as the snow melted when Aslan was on the move, the redemptive plan of God was in full force when Christ came that first Christmas.
For the Christian, the babe in the manger isn’t a cute, Hallmark situation. Christmas isn’t simply a season of nostalgic feelings, whereby we attempt to forget about our trials and live inside a Norman Rockwell painting for a month. No. Christmas is a powerful image of relentless, saving grace.
Christmas is familiar – but it certainly isn’t tame. The manger reveals the Creator God as the Redeeming God who came to save us singlehandedly and definitively.
To borrow from Timothy Keller,
Christmas is both more wondrous and more threatening than we imagine.
How is that?
Well, a Saviour in a manger provokes us to look at something we’d prefer not to look at: we need saving. This threatens our self sufficiency. This offends our god complex. This is what our parents opted for in the garden: self sufficiency as their own god. Defining their own truth. Bowing their knees to no one.
For those of us who’ve been in the church for decades, the idea of needing grace daily threatens our delusions of self righteousness. Our fragile religious egos lower the bar on God’s law, convinced that we can stockpile grace because we only sin occasionally when in reality, the standard of God’s law warranted the Babe in the manger because we actually sin daily.
The manger says, “you can’t, so I will.” It may as well have had the words ‘grace alone‘ etched into the side of it. [Yes, I know it was likely stone, history buffs 🙂 ]
All this makes Christmas threatening.
The advent season narrows our gaze to consider that this King in a manger would become our King on the cross. By His death, he sentenced death – to death. The trajectory of the life of the Christ-child is now the trajectory of our life: all our suffering will end in glory.
In the end, our lives do not descend into darkness and death, but light and resurrection. Everything God created by grace, He is restoring by grace. The gift of God’s grace will not do away with the material world – God’s grace will perfect it. That’s the meta narrative, the gracious, redemptive storyarc. That’s the incredible hope that everyone in Christ has been swept up into.
All this makes Christmas wondrous.
If the foundation of the Christian faith was rule keeping, then the Babe in the manger was divine overkill. The people of God already had His law – they needed grace.
God is perfectly loving, therefore His standard is perfectly loving. Progress will not do. Only perfection. This is why there was a Babe in a manger and not an addendum to the law, complete with diagrams to help us ‘do life better‘. God demands perfection from us because He is holy, therefore He met His demands for us because He is gracious. That gift is showcased in the manger.
Now, before you sound the antinomian alarm, let me be clear: I wholeheartedly affirm that Jesus is our example. Christ is our example – but that is secondary. Christ as our Saviour is primary. It is precisely because He saved us in grace that we are compelled to live to the glory of His grace. The grace that saved us, sanctified us and continues to sanctify us.
The desire to follow the example of the Saviour flows from hearts that marvel at the grace of the Saviour. Reflecting on the grace of Christ engenders deeper loyalty to Christ, not license to live indifferent from Him.
The manger is a good reminder of why we rest on Sundays: Christ came into the world and did what we couldn’t do – all of it.
The gospel is not “so be good for goodness sake” but “Christ was perfectly good for your sake.“
The Babe in the manger was a sufficient gift of grace. So sufficient, there’s nothing we can contribute to His divine achievement. The only thing left to do, is enjoy Him and glorify Him forever.
You can listen to the KW Redeemer Advent Series here.