Welcome to another edition of ‘Our Fallen World’! Today I want to talk about a column in the Washington Post.
‘A wakeup call:’ British theologian N.T. Wright on the prosperity gospel, climate change and Advent‘ by Sarah Pulliam Bailey of the Washington Post
I am not sure what made me click on this article. Perhaps it was to see a possible critique of the prosperity gospel, or the odd placement of climate change in juxtaposition to two theological topics. Either way at the top of the article I found something that took me aback.
Q: Why do you think so few American Christians observe Advent beyond maybe opening a calendar with chocolates?
It isn’t surprising when your run of the mill Christian might gloss over the miracle of the birth of Christ; but it is a bit jarring when a fellow theologian does it. Even though, you can expect to run into some differences, but with things like the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and salvation by grace, you tend to have your gloves down and take a jab to the face. In a way it knocks you back for a second. That is how I felt reading that first q and a.
How can the incarnation of Christ be taken out of the Bible? Without the incarnation of God in flesh, Good Friday and Easter, make no sense. Without the deity of Christ, the crucifixion is just a sad story of another prophet being martyred. Now the resurrection would be helpful in distinguishing Jesus as the Christ but without the birth you miss out on the fulfilment of some major biblical prophecy.
How can any serious theologian skim over the miracle of the incarnation, the two nature’s of Christ, and Christ’s state of humiliation? God felt pain and suffering His entire life; God, who never had to feel the slightest of fallen human inconveniences, felt them. He set aside His glory to take on the form of a Servant; God put on human flesh and dwelt among us! Hundreds of serious books have been published on this, theologians have spoken at lengths about it throughout church history, we have had some heavy theological debates about the deity and natures of Christ; of which have come some solid biblical doctrine in the form of Creed’s and defense against heresy’s. And N.T. Wright would be quick to not only gloss over the incarnation but remove it from the Bible completely?
“Christmas has always teetered on the edge of not really meaning that much, so Advent, which is this period before Christmas, means even less so for many people. Many Christians are finding the pragmatic Protestantism they grew up in is lacking. I encourage people to take seriously the year as a God-given reality with seasons to help us to tune into something about the goodness of creation.” – NT Wright
The significance of the Advent season is of a condemned world, given over by God to its own sin and the coming of the Lamb of God who takes away all of that sin to suffer the condemnation for us.
It is sad that for many Christian’s that the Advent and Christmas seasons don’t carry much meeting. It doesn’t reflect on them as it does their pastors. It is a shame for any pastor to not place the importance of the coming Messiah. It is important because without the coming, without God in human flesh as a child born to us, without the sinless one fulfilling the Law, the resurrection doesn’t make much sense.
If we don’t have the importance of God in flesh, if we lose the substitutionary atonement, if we rip out His righteousness for your unrighteousness, then the resurrection doesn’t bring much to us. It is vitally important that we never lose the fact that nearly 2,000 years ago, prophesy was fulfilled, that was first spoken of in the Garden, that the whole of Scripture attests to, that God came to tabernacle with us; in human flesh, to not only filfil prophecy but to fulfil the Law in our place so that through His death and resurrection; we are righteous and justified.
That is why we celebrate Advent, that is why we don’t just rip the first coming of our Lord out of the Bible, because He will come again and we live in the time between His first and second coming; where He comes to us in Word and Sacrament. His first coming came to purchase us the last will be to take what He has bought; home.
May your Advent season be a blessed season.