The Greatest Christmas Gift
By: Abe Anaya
In recent days, the local media has been covering a story that has the attention of many. Two local men who run a homeless shelter have decided to take to the streets and become homeless for a week. That's right; they decided that to bring about awareness to the needs of the homeless community and empathize with those suffering from homelessness during this frigid winter, they too would be on the streets under extreme conditions. This level of sacrifice has been inspiring to watch.
Can you imagine being in that board meeting with these two? Upon hearing the pitch where they said, "We are going to leave the comforts of our suburban homes. We will leave behind our heaters, our beds, our children, our wives, our fridge and pantry, our hot baths and porcelain toilets, and we will live in a storage container alongside the road!" - What would you of said in this meeting? Would you vote for it or against it?
As incredible as this local news story is and as unbelievable as it may seem that two men would be willing to do this for an ever-growing homeless community, it happened. They became poor and homeless for the sake of others.
Two thousand years ago, there was another meeting that took place. This time, it wasn't a board room with a CEO but a throne room with a King. The room was filled with a triune God and Angels who worshiped them.
It was in this place that the Godhead "three in one" decided that Jesus, the creator and sustainer of the universe (Geneses 1, John 1, Colossians 1), would leave the comforts of His throne, go to the very earth He created, in the form of a servant (Philippians 2), born in a barn to a peasant girl (Luke 2), and would ultimately die in the hands of a Roman government.
The level of empathy that the homeless community will experience for one week should pale compared to the sacrifice that Jesus has made for all of us.
Regarding God becoming one of us, Max Lucado puts it this way,
"God became a man. While the creatures of earth walked unaware, Divinity arrived. Heaven opened herself and placed her most precious one in a human womb. The Omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierceable. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. And he who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl.
God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The creator of life being created. God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys, and a spleen. He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother. God had come near."
It's hard to imagine that Jesus was existent from the beginning of time in Genesis chapter 1. When we read about the birth of baby Jesus, we're reading something that is so much more magnificent and mysterious than we could imagine. The advent of Emmanuel, God with us, is the incarnation of a Holy Creator God.
Before He became an adult and was a servant, He was a baby born in a manger. Well, what about before He became a baby in a manger? He was ruling and reining as our Lord and creator along with the Father and the precious Holy Spirit. The theological nuance of "Theosis" helps us understand something so profound, mysterious, and meaningful to the Christian life.
Theosis, or deification (deification may also refer to apotheosis, lit. "making divine"), is a transformative process whose aim is likeness to or union with God.
The early church father, Gregory of Nazainzus, once said, "The Son of God came in order that I too might be made God so far as He is made man."
If this idea seems foreign to you, consider these passages. (Psalm 82:6, John 10:34, John 17:21, Romans 5, Romans 8:10, 11,
1 Corinthians 15:53, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 1:10, Colossians 1:20,
2 Peter 1:4, 1 John 3:2)
The early church fathers understood this concept more so than our culture today. The fact that the divine would become human so that the human could become divine is an ancient thought.
So what does this mean for all of us this Christmas season?
Practically speaking, as we prepare for Christmas Day, may we remember this Christmas season of the divine power and majesty that we find in Jesus. May we remember the empathetic God that we serve. One who was willing to become one of us. One who leaves the comforts of Heaven to seek and save the lost. One who is willing to be subjected to the harsh conditions of a cold winter and the harsher conditions of an oppressive Roman government.
The term used to describe the type of ministry that the two gentlemen from the homeless shelter are doing by living with homeless people and becoming one of them is "incarnational ministry." This term is derived from the "incarnation of Christ" becoming like one of us when He didn't have to.
May this Christmas remind us of Theosis, the divine becoming human, that the human may take on the divine. The world around us is dying and is seeking meaning in life; as Christians, we have found it in a divine God.
This may be one of the greatest gifts we can give to anyone this Christmas.
Abe Anaya is a Pastor in our Life Groups Ministry here at Shepherd Church.