On this day we say a hearty Merry Christmas! to all the readers of The Pearcey Report. May today be a special time of remembrance and joy with family and friends.
Today's thoughts on the meaning of the fact of Christmas take their focus from information in Luke that affirms the real-world, historic Nativity as something that human beings could hear and see.
Every living celebration of Christmas is an embrace of space-time reality, not an "escape from reason" (as Francis Schaeffer might say).
Thus, the revolutionary good news of a child's birth continues to confront cults of faith, secularism, religion, and politics. Consider:
Luke 2:20 specifies that Christmas is about the visual and aural validation of answers from God.
Rather than a religious truth or spiritual technique that escapes the world, Christmas lives down the street. It is alive to the real world and is one of those things that can be “heard and seen.”
Hemingway, who grew to hate generalities but love discrete facts, could have given the manger scene an address in one of his novels.
The very livelihood of the shepherds depended upon their ability to excel at hearing and seeing.
If the shepherds had had, let us say, no ability to perceive empirical realities, then clearly no number of angels from on high, no matter how sudden, loud, or bright their appearance at night, could have averted the attention of the shepherds, much less give them the jolt of a lifetime.
Alive to Sight and Sound
The angels are free agents of God who were seen, delivered a message that was heard, and then returned to Heaven, which, by the way, may well have streets and addresses.
There may also be motorcycles, sportsplexes, and ways to improve one’s skills in craftsmanship, for while the Creator despises sin, death, and decay, he loves creativity, action, physicality, aesthetics, and so on, all of which belong to that category of “good” he talked about in Genesis back at the beginning of this world.
The “new heavens” and “new earth” are not likely to be boring places (Is. 65:17).
“Angels We Have Heard on High” are real creatures operating in space and time, not magical beings created by the fear and imaginations of shepherds.
These angels can be observed by human eyes, with no need of 3-D glasses or suspended disbelief in dark theaters.
When these angels speak, they communicate content that can be heard and processed by individuals with the same kinds of ears that listen for wolves in the night.
The angels themselves are alive to sight and sound, and so also is the content of their message.
At first only one angel appears, and he tells the shepherds to not be afraid.
That limited introduction may well be an act of compassion, for the unexpected appearance of a “multitude” of messengers might have been more than shephardic circuitry could bear.
The angels give reasons the shepherds should not be afraid: There’s good news that coheres with previous verified information from God, the Savior has been born, and you can check it out.
Even though the Nativity concerns God, angels, information from Heaven, and so on, let us remember that what is described is not a “faith” experience at all.
That kind of “faith” may flow rather nicely with the agenda of secularists working harder than Santa’s elves to keep Christmas domesticated, safely tucked away in private realms of glorious, subjective experience.
But the long-awaited Savior of history is a fact born in a specific locale on planet Earth, and not very far away.
The City of David is within walking distance, just over a hill or two.
Just in case the shepherds don’t get the hint, the first angel tells them, “This will be a sign for you” (Lk. 2:12).
A “sign,” such as a traffic sign, is an object posted for public view so that people will be informed about how to drive properly.
The “sign” the angel brings up refers to a living public object “posted” in a manger, so that shepherds who see and hear will have a way to evaluate the truth status of what the angel is saying and to observe what God is doing in human history that very night.
It’s then, in the course of a holy night with a timeline, that “a multitude of heavenly host” appears praising God (Lk. 2:13).
Again, this unfolds in the context of geography and empirical knowledge, with events occurring in ways consistent with cause and effect.
The angels leave the scene, and then the shepherds say, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing which has happened” (Lk. 2:15).
They went, they saw, they were glad. They saw flesh-and-blood people named Mary and Joseph.
They saw a baby occupying space, "lying in a manger," inside the particular geography of the shelter where he was born.
“And when they saw it,” says Luke 2:17, then “they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.”
In the first Christmas, real people had something to say to other real people on the basis of extraordinary, observable events that occurred in the real world.
This may challenge the hopes of secular faith, but truly free thinkers don’t mind a jolt here and there.
The preceding is excerpted from my "Christmas Spirit in Space and Time." Additional excerpts are forthcoming during this "most wonderful time of the year." If you would like to journey forward and read ahead, go here.