Remove God's presence and there is no good news. And if God is present in human history through Jesus Christ, then everything else that we think about when it comes to the gospel - salvation and substitution and healing and justice and reconciliation - all the rest must follow.
"If God could just see what we see, hear what we hear, suffer what we suffer, he would do something about it all." This lament echoes through human history. And that echo smashes into Jesus Christ.
Our understanding of the character of God hinges so much on what we saw of him in Jesus Christ. As much as we talk about the loving and gracious God of the Old Testament, He seems to have few friends, few people with whom he is intimate enough to share their sorrows. And yet, Jesus' life is full of relationships. Disciples and friends. Family. Acquaintances, fans and enemies. He shared life with all of these people. And so he knew the hurts inflicted by the world. He saw and heard and suffered.
We Christians claim that God saw and heard and suffered, that God did something, that he was present and is present and will be present throughout human history. Time bends and folds itself around his coming. Shockwaves roll along the strings of history. It's because he was present in Bethlehem that we can believe he was present in Bethel and Bethany and Bethesda, MD (or anywhere else for that matter).
This is one of the things I love about the old, rolling patristic theology. Athanasius got this. He said something like ... "Human history was a town besieged by bandits" he said. "The people of the town suffered, overwhelmed by evil. Yet one day, the King of that country took up residence in that town. He took up residence and took up arms. And from that day forward, the bandits harried the town no longer." And here's what he says next (this was so good I had to look it up):
Even so is it with the King of all; He has come into our country and dwelt in one body amidst the many, and in consequence the designs of the enemy against mankind have been foiled and the corruption of death, which formerly held them in its power, has simply ceased to be. For the human race would have perished utterly had not the Lord and Savior of all, the Son of God, come among us to put an end to death.I love that Love doesn't love us from a distance.
I love that Love shared the house of bread and the cup of wine.
I love that Love endured the rude wind's wild lament and the bitter weather.
I love that Love embraced the slings and arrows of the outrageous human experience and entered as a player on the small stage, sans wealth, sans privilege, sans safety, sans everything.
Greater love has no one than Love.
And Love is present with us.
And this is good news.
And this is good news.