I, Who erewhile the happy Garden sung,
By one man's disobedience lost, now sing
Recovered Paradise to all mankind,
By one man's firm obedience fully tried
Through all temptation, and the Tempter foiled
In all his wiles, defeated and repulsed,
And Eden raised in the waste Wilderness.
John Milton - Paradise Regained
So this is Christmas,
when peoples pagan and religious celebrate an array of things and even secularists take the time off the routine to focus upon their partner or family or possibly some community event. It may not be the actual 'day' of the Christian nativity, but it is most certainly a 'holy'day in the truest sense - a moment when we can actually reflect on the richness of human life and ponder amidst family and friends what really underpins our brief days here.
During the second century of Christianity, when the misnomer of Gnostic spirituality was beginning to become popular, Irenaeus used both his gifts and his pen to clarify what matters about the Christian faith to his age. Like so many words of sage counsel, what he wrote then still enunciates to our time why what happened on this world of ours some 2000 years ago is still of major import to every one of us today:
"the things which had perished possessed flesh and blood. For the Lord, taking dust from the earth, moulded man; and it was upon his behalf that all the days of the Lord's Incarnation took place. He had himself, therefore, flesh and blood, recapitulating (re-instating) in himself not a certain other, but that original handiwork of the Father, seeking out that thing which had perished."
I know it's hard for us mere mortals to get inside what's going on here, but imagine a child - your child, becoming your greatest enemy, hating and despising you for the greater part of their life, and then you learn that this child is in mortal danger, and the only way to rescue this person is for you to take their place, to undergo their death, so that they may be acquitted and set free.
That's essentially what Christianity is telling us has happened, except the 'parent' in the human story is God Himself, and the 'child' that is rescued is not only human beings, but every particle of creation that was marred by our hate and rebellion. The love of our Creator, our real Father, is that deep, that rich, that all the darkness, pain, misery and evil we have marked into ourselves is canceled out by the work of Jesus Christ.
How do you respond to a love as deep as this?
We can, at the very least, begin to consider on this day the one who loves us so -
a God who has given so much so that we would not perish in rebellion and corruption,
but be rescued to truly find the purpose of life.
Have a good Christmas
and here's to a memorable New Year.