To be sure, this way of being was already known in the world. To be sure, all people and all cultures had elements and anticipations of this way of being in them. They all showed that this way of being is written on the heart of man. All people intrinsically know what is right and good and beautiful when they see it.
What was new two thousand years ago was the clarity with which this way of being was known and expressed. Among a group of people living in palestine there was suddenly a knowing of THE way to be in the world. What was only known partially and imperfectly throughout human history was now known with a fullness and perfection that was truly new and unique.
They began to say things like:
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV).
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8 ESV).
And is says of them,
“and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:45 NASB).
This way of being was expressed in the breaking down of barriers heretofore seen as impenetrable.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female …” (Galatians 3:28 NKJV).
This from a man who all his pre-Christian life would have prayed thank you God that "Thou hast not made me a Gentile, a slave or a woman." As one commentator points out he takes that prayer and reverses it. The old distinctions were gone; all were one in Christ.” (William Barclay, commentary on Galatians).
Women, who had been excluded from participating in the synagogue service were now praying and prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:5). Women who had been seen as of little or no value when it came to such important things were now speaking to God on behalf of the congregation in prayer and were speaking to the congregation on behalf of God in prophecy. Amazing!
Slaves, who in the ancient world were seen as less human than their masters, following the teaching of such men as aristotle, who said in the first book of his politics that there are “those who are as different [from other men] as the soul from the body or man from beast ….[and] are slaves by nature.”
The best thought of the ancient world thought of slaves as being as different from their masters as is “man from beast.” And yet in such a world there appeared among this people in palestine the idea that a slave should be received [quote] “as a fellow man and as a brother “ (Philemon 1:16 NIV).
What are we to make of this? What accounts for this sudden appearance of love among us? They said it wasn’t them doing and saying these things. They said that they had come under the grip of another reality. They called this reality “Christ.”
“I no longer live”, one of them said, “but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20 NIV). They attributed their words and actions to one called Christ. They said his spirit, his energy, his power, his reality gripped them and motivated them. This new way was not their invention. It was a gift that had found them and changed them. It’s origins were outside themselves.
Indeed, they said it was so outside themselves that it had been embodied by somebody else. Somebody else had embodied these realities in ways they could not. They said that their embodiment of the new way, as profound and deep and real as it was, was nothing compared to the embodiment they found in this man. They said their embodiment was partial and imperfect and flawed compared to that one who embodied the way perfectly.
They said that in Jesus of Nazareth they encountered love incarnate. In Jesus of Nazareth they had encountered a reality so unlike any other reality in this world that they could only conclude that his origins were not of this world. In the words of one of their prophets his origins were “from old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). And then they painted a picture of his life, capturing in the gospel accounts the wonder of the man they had beheld.
As one person has said,
"Strange … when we think of God we think of Him in terms of this man or He is not good. We may transfer every single moral quality in Jesus to God without loss or degradation to our thought of God. On the contrary, by thinking of Him in terms of Jesus we heighten our views of God. All those who have tried to think of Him in other terms have lowered and impoverished our idea of Him" (attributed to E. Stanley Jones)
This man also said, “I know nothing higher to say of God than that He should live like Christ.”
This is the reality we encounter in the gospels--a reality beyond any reality we find in this world.
To know Jesus is to know God, for God is love. The law of our being is the form of being that took expression in Jesus of Nazareth and was so powerfully expressed in those who came under his influence.
To know Jesus is to know the holy, to know that which is truly worthy of highest devotion and highest respect.
Fall on your knees. O hear the angels’ voices. You are in the presence of the holy tonight. Jesus is Lord. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by him, for he is in the bosom of the father (John 1:18 NASB). He is the heart of God. He is love incarnate. More precisely, he is the God who is love incarnate.
And so you should surrender to him, surrender to the truth about him and what that truth says about you. In his presence we realize the truth about ourselves, that we sin and fall short of his glory (Romans 3:23). In his presence we realize just how unholy we are and just how holy he is, and yet we find in him not condemnation but forgiveness. He offers us hope that one day we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is in all his beauty (1 John 3:2). We shall shine like the stars for we shall be set free of all that keeps us from love (Matthew 13:43).
Surrender to him and find that even now his Spirit, his reality comes into you and you begin to know the new reality that has come in Christ (Acts 2:38). Surrender to him and be born again, born from above. Surrender to him and find that you have died and you no longer live but Christ lives in you.
Surrender to the miracle of Christmas. Amen.