Dale Appleby

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Weekly Reflections

Christmas and death 22 Dec 13

Christmas and death

Christmas and death; Christmas and violence; Christmas and war. The December headlines always seem to remind us of the chronic corruption of humanity. There seems to be no end to the evil and suffering which people inflict on each other. Even the people and nations that consider themselves good are seen to act more out of self-interest than natural goodness. All this is in contrast to the advertisements, the piped music in shops and the general sentiment that surrounds Christmas.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the two had nothing to do with one another at all. And as far as the general sentimentality of Christmas is concerned this is nearly true. The connection between them is that the sentimentality can be seen as a form of denial, a refusal to take seriously, or perhaps to escape for a while from the terrible state that the human race is in.

But denial does not improve things. It should be obvious by now that humans have only limited power to improve things. The best ordered and most civilized societies are still full of corruption and evil. And death itself continues to haunt the human race.

It is good if we can see the stark contrast between the evil and suffering of our world and Christmas. But we also need to see the connection between them. Christmas is about the evil and suffering.  Christmas happened because of the chronic corruption of humanity and the power of death.

Christmas is the great act of the Creator who intervened in his world to restore a humanity which is meant to bear his image. It is about God himself acting to remove the corruption of death which plagues the human race. It is about God the Son, by whom everything was created, taking humanity on himself in order to rescue humanity from the judgment of death.

It is not possible to think about Christmas without thinking of the death of the babe who was born to die. His birth was the means by which the one who bore the image of God perfectly and gloriously reinstated that image in humanity. He not only was the image of God. He took his place as the representative of God in the world in order to overthrow the usurper who by deceit had gained the rule of the world. Thus he came as the true representative of God to regain the rule over God’s world.

He did this by his death. He took the humanity that was corrupted and liable to death upon himself. And by taking it to death and through death, brought it into a new life over which the old corruption had no power. He thus destroyed the power of the devil to rule the hearts and lives of humans. He established a new race with himself as head which would be transformed into his likeness and share his image, the image of God.

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