The choir of angels can’t be credited with the first Christmas hymn. Nor was it a lullaby the virgin cooed to her swaddled infant. You have to go much farther back.
God belted out the first Christmas hymn on day six of creation. He took a deep breath and sang, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” There you have it. In that ten-word song God indicated he would one day make a manger his throne. The Lord was hinting that “he was to reveal himself to the world in the man Christ,” wrote Luther.
He who made man would one day man be made.
@@The backstory of the incarnation is therefore the first story of the Bible.@@
God Doesn’t Become Less, We Become More
And this fills us with unspeakable hope. Right from the get-go, God’s interest had a laser-like focus: he was intent on recreating us when we trashed our creation.
- When he poured out oceans and rivers, he was preparing for our baptism into Christ in the waters of the Jordan.
- When he planted the oaks in Eden, he was making sure there’d be wood for both a manger and a cross.
- When he sowed the fields with wheat, he was readying the world for bread that would clothe his body in the meal of meals.
- When he made the heavenly lights, he ensured there’d be a star to guide wise men from the East, and a sun to darken when fools affixed his Son to a tree.
As with all the other particulars of our world, so it was with the pinnacle of divine labor. He created us with an eye on recreating us. He made humanity in his image because one day he would assume that image. The Creator would become a creature while remaining Creator.
God would not become less; we would become more.
That’s why the church fathers often shock us by speaking of the felix culpa, the “happy fault” or “happy fall” into sin. The joy is not in the innocence lost but the union with God achieved in the incarnation. As the liturgy of the Easter Vigil puts it, “Oh happy fault that earned so great, so glorious, a Redeemer.” Our human nature was wonderfully created, says one prayer, and yet more wonderfully redeemed.
@@We gain more in Jesus than we lost in Adam.@@
Christmas doesn’t transport us back into Eden. No, God swings for the fence. The incarnation is a home run. It leads from Bethlehem to the right hand of the throne of God. There we sit with Jesus, who is bone of Mary’s bone and flesh of our flesh. God has “seated us with him [!] in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Eph 2:6).
Oh happy fall that leads to our joyous exaltation with Jesus!
God’s Wonderful Plan
All of this is the wonderful plan that God has for our lives. And not just for us, but for all creation. He promised his nativity when the world was just a baby. He hinted at it, prophesied it, acted it out through Israel’s history.
The entire Old Testament story is a vast intake of breath by the angels which they exhaled in their Christmas hymn, “Glory to God in the highest.”
How much does this glorious God want you to have? Everything. You are the reason he made the sun and moon, grass and dirt, Pluto and plankton. It’s all a vast canvas on which is painted, in a rainbow of colors, one glowing message: I love you.
In love I created you.
In love I redeemed you.
In love I forgive you, indwell you, and make you holy.
In love I will remake everything for you to have an everlasting home.
That love is what Christmas is all about. God, finally and decisively, acts to sow the seeds of a kingdom of power that is inching its way toward the eschaton, when it will explode into a new heavens and new earth, where we will dwell with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in peace and joy forever.
Here's a short YouTube video where I discuss this further, especially focusing on why God created us. Did he make us (1) because he needed something from us or (2) because he wanted to give good gifts to us?