The Greatest Gift

Gerard van Honthorst Adoration of the Shepherd...
Gerard van Honthorst Adoration of the Shepherds, still influenced by St. Bridget (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the really ironic things about all that happened with our family this summer when Logan had his accident is that, from an outside perspective, nothing has changed.  Before his accident, Logan was a healthy 19 year old young man and two months later he was a healthy 19 year old young man.  For someone who did not know what happened in between there would be no observable difference.  They would not know how bad the bad news was when Logan nearly drowned so they would have no idea how wonderful and miraculous the good news is that he is alive and doing well.

Sometimes even I wonder a bit if the bad news was really that bad.  Then I think of the reaction of the medical people who cared for Logan.  Some of them saw what kind of shape he was in when he first came into the hospital in Kelowna.  All of them had access to his medical records which documented the degree of the bad news.  And those professional medical people were amazed by the reality that Logan survived and recovered with no brain damage.  So the bad news was really bad—Logan’s heart had stopped, his friends performed CPR on him for 40-45 minutes, he could have died in the hospital or he could have survived with severe brain damage—and the depth of the bad news is what helps me to realize the greatness of the good news:   God saved and restored his life!

Each and every human being is in a parallel situation.  Most people don’t know how bad the bad news is for humanity so the Good News has little or no value for us.  How bad is the bad news?  It is very, very bad!  When our first parents committed the first sin, the result was total corruption of the sinless perfection of Adam and Eve and existence in a state of death.

So what is the Good News?  St. Athanasius, writing in fourth century Egypt, describes it this way in On the Incarnation:

“…it was our sorry case that caused …[God the Son] to come down, our transgression that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us.  It is we who were the cause of His taking human form, and for our salvation that in His great love He was both born and manifested in a human body…

…He assumed a body capable of death, in order that it, through belonging to …[God the Son] who is above all, might become in dying a sufficient exchange for all, and, itself remaining incorruptible through His indwelling, might thereafter put an end to corruption for all others as well, by the grace of the resurrection.  It was by surrendering to death the body which He had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from every stain, that He forthwith abolished death for His human brethren by the offering of the equivalent” (29, 35).

And how good is the Good News?  It is a far greater miracle than what God did in Logan’s life and it is for everyone!  As Matt Maher writes in his song Love Comes Down,

Isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t it marvelous?/The God of the universe, He became one of us/We cry out and then love comes down again/Hope is found in him, Hallelujah! 

The greatest gift ever given to you won’t be under your Christmas tree.  Your greatest gift is this:  God the Son wrapped himself in human flesh and became one of us to save us.  This gift of God-in-human flesh is called the Incarnation and it is what Christmas is all about.

May joy over the Incarnation infuse and enliven all of your Christmas celebrations.  And remember that the bad news was really bad, but the Good News is fantastic!  Hallelujah!

In Christ’s love, Pastor James

(This devotion was originally written for the December 2012 newsletter of Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Langley BC.)

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