“He became what we are so that we can be what he is”St Athanasius (296-373 AD)
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”2 Corinthians 5. 21
RESETTING THE COMPASS
Two images dominate western art. You can see them in every art gallery in Europe and in the stained glass windows of every church. One depicts a child in his mother’s arms. The other shows a young man dying on a cross.
The Christian faith says this child and this man are the same person. They say that he is God come down to earth.
This seems preposterous! It’s not how we think of God at all! Surely God is not a tiny child? Surely God doesn’t hang on a cross? Surely God – if he is God at all – is ‘all powerful’, ‘unchanging’, and ‘all knowing’.
In this man, and especially in the awful climax of his awful death, we are invited to consider God as one who is emptied of power, as one who shares the life of earth. This is always the first message of the Christian faith: it is what we must declare before we declare anything else; God is with us.
In this man God has come to us in our own flesh and blood. God breathes the air we breathe. God walks the ground we tread. God knows what it is to be human, shows us how to be human, and speaks to us with a human voice. In this demonstration of perfect humanity and all giving love we, at last, see what God is like. God’s all-powerfulness emptied into an ‘all-lovingness’ which walks the second mile of love and plumbs even the depths of death itself. For the God who in the tiny child becomes a human being, shares our humanity for a purpose: to save us from ourselves, from the false north of all our wrong choices, and from the sin and death which is their destination.
We are turned around. Our lives given a new direction. The inner compass of our humanity is re-set. All this is the achievement of the man upon the cross. His purpose is to die and rise and take us with him. In his death, death is destroyed. In his life, life is restored; sins are forgiven and humanity is reconciled to God.
His name is Emmanuel, which means God is with us.
His name is Jesus, which means God saves.