I’d hung all my hopes on one event; I had reasons, evidence, encouragement. It comforted me in my day-to-day as I felt I knew what must come in the future. I didn’t have to make other plans. That summer, though, my evidence proved to be no evidence at all; the reasons disappeared; there was positive discouragement. Rather than a comfortable eventuality, it became an impossibility. There was heartbreak, and I was left with a future for which I had no vision. My reality was redefined.
Defining moments. We’ve all experienced them. Moments in which things which had existed in the abstract became concrete, and the shape of reality changed a bit. It happens at births. It happens at deaths. It might happen when you learn that the person you’d hope loved you really does love you. It might happen when you find out they don’t.
We mark our lives by these moments: all the things that came before, all the things that came after. Sometimes they are large enough for whole families or communities to measure time by them: the death of a patriarch; an election; a tornado. Sometimes they shake the world: the day the Enola Gay dropped its horrific load on Hiroshima; the day terrorists flew airliners into the World Trade Center. Sometimes we give them the dignity of a calendar marking, officially acknowledging that something transformative happened, something that deserves to be remembered.
But there is one event of such magnitude that it shapes our whole calendar system: the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Though the origin of this calendar change is wrapped in political and religious conflict, it nonetheless stands that, when we look back at history we number the years counting down until Christ’s incarnation and then counting up again after Him. Thus we label ancient history with “BC” — Before Christ — and the last two-thousand years of history with “AD” — Anno Domini, in the Year of our Lord. There have been recent efforts to expunge Christ from our reckoning of history, replacing AD with the more religiously inclusive CE, for Common Era, and transforming BC into BCE, Before Common Era. But behind the inclusive language is the inescapable fact that this “Common Era” by which we measure began when the Word became flesh. We have Common Era because we have Christ.
In the person of Christ, abstracts — though God is not really abstract — became concrete. The God who had existed as a voice, a fire, and thundering cloud to His people, put on a body and touched them with infinitely human hands. The God who had shadowed forth His redemption in substitutionary blood of animals, brought His own blood to be spilled for us. The God whose power seemed so far removed from our weakness, whose laws seemed so much too hard for mere mortals, put on our weakness as helpless, squalling infant, and as a mortal man kept those too-hard laws.
Humanity’s abstract hope of being known, of being loved, of being saved became concrete as God put on a body and changed the shape of reality. In this Christmas season, this is what we celebrate. For love of this broken world of ours, God gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Trust in Christ; let His love redefine your reality; and rejoice!
©2014 by Stacy Nott