BY RYAN COUCH
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” -John 1:14
It’s the Christmas season, that time of year when families gather together to exchange gifts and spend time with one another. While most of our Christmas celebrations look more like the Griswold’s than they do the ubiquitous Hallmark movie, we celebrate nevertheless. We bake our pies, wrap our gifts and travel interstates and highways fighting traffic and inclement weather to join our dysfunctional families around the Christmas tree. God too packed his bags and traveled to be with his family that first Christmas.
The Advent season, for which the Church celebrates each year is about God’s willingness to condescend to man. God in all of his glory and holiness stepped out of heaven into the morass of our sin and brokenness. In fact, the entirety of God’s redemptive story is one where God comes to his creation to commune with them. In the very beginning, we see God walking with man in the Garden he had created for them. Throughout the Old Testament narrative, we find God visiting his people through prophets, angels, and theophanies. And of course, the story of Redemption finds its crescendo in the Person and work of Christ who came to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. The story of Christmas is the good news that God wasn’t willing to leave himself as an abstract concept for us to theorize about. While sinful man likes to opine about God up in heaven, God meets us down here on the earth in the midst of all our brokenness and sin. At Christmas we are confronted with God as he wants to be known, not a God who hides behind all his divine attributes but a God who reveals himself clothed in the very human flesh that the philosophers and theologians of glory believe needs to be shed off to find our true selves. While sinners prefer a God who is absent so that we can form and fashion him as we see fit, God comes to us as we are so that we might know him as he wants to be known.
Christmas at its core is about theology; it’s not about contemplating or opining about a God who simply is something up in heaven, it’s about proclaiming the God who actually does something down here on earth. A God who came to us, not in all his glory and majesty, but a God who came to us through a poor virgin of no reputation, “therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
While a theologian of glory spends his time theorizing about God in all his hiddenness, a theologian of the cross fixates himself on the revealed God in Christ. It’s about a God who does something for us and to us. As the late Gerhard Forde writes in his important book Where God Meets Man. “We do not have a theology about the cross, but a theology of the cross.” A theology that is not an abstraction but a concrete reality that meets us right here in the midst of our darkness and brokenness.
As you gather with your broken family this holiday season be reminded of your God who is not absent from you. We do not worship a grumpy God who sends us a Christmas card and tells us to get our act together. We worship a loving Creator who entered our darkness to put an end to the accusing voice of his commands. While he could have left us alone in our own condemnation he joined us in our walled-in existence of death. Not only did he join us in our hopeless estate he put himself under the same curse, a curse that ends in death. God who has no beginning and end placed himself in a human body that by its very nature must end in death. A death that most certainly had a purpose, a redemptive end, but was the same kind of death we are destined to die. By entering into our death he created an entirely new reality for us, a reality that is only experienced through faith and hope but will one day be fully realized as Jesus fully and finally makes all things new and brings his kingdom to earth that we might be with him forevermore.
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” -Revelation 21:5
Ryan is married to his college sweetheart, Andrea. They live with their two teenagers in beautiful Bend, OR. Ryan holds Master’s degrees from Knox Theological Seminary and Trinity Seminary. He is also studying with Dr. Jim Nestigen and St. Paul Lutheran Seminary in pursuit of a Doctor of Ministry degree. Ryan enjoys good cigars and talking with people about theology and the radical message of the gospel. Ryan has planted two churches and is currently gathering with a core group of sinners in hopes to plant a law/gospel church in Bend.