Friday of Advent 3 – 2 Corinthians 5:5–21

Friday of Advent 3 – 2 Corinthians 5:5–21 December 18, 2014

HCL + NaOH reaction

Christ was born of flesh that we might be born of the Spirit.

This is the message this morning, as the birth pangs of Christmas and miracle of the Incarnation come even closer to us.  St. Paul doesn’t deal directly with the Incarnation here in 2 Corinthians 5, but in the context of the last days of Advent before Christmas, his message takes on a new and wonderful meaning.

Christ was born of flesh that we might be born of the Spirit.

We do see the meaning of Christmas in verse 19, where Paul writes that, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.”  Remembering that we can’t separate one part of the ministry of Jesus from another, we see the beginning of Christ’s ministry of reconciliation in His Incarnation.  God’s first daring move in the work of salvation is to take on human flesh.  With all of its finitude and sinfulness, God took on human flesh that He might reconcile the world to Himself.

How much God must have loved His ruined creation to become a part of it!  How much more must He have loved those made in His image, even though they were image-destroyers and desecraters of His creation, to become one of us!

But it is not enough that God become one of us: the goal of the Incarnation is Glorification.  God came down to earth and became man that man might ascend to heaven and partake of God.  In this way, the love and humility of God become the glory of mankind and of all creation.

Even as God became one of us, God makes us a part of Himself, a partaker of His nature.  Even as He takes off the Old Man from us, He puts the New Man on.  This is why Paul says in verse 2 that we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven.  Paul knows that though we have already been clothed with Christ, who is the New Man and our righteousness, we are not yet fully clothed.  And so at Christmas we must use both of our eyes: one eye to rejoice in the First Coming of Christ in human flesh, and one eye to seek the Second Coming of Christ in which we fully dwell with God.

Because Jesus Christ was born at Christmas we are all enabled to be born again.  Jesus Christ’s becoming one of us is what makes possible us becoming partakers of God.  At Christmas we celebrate, therefore, not just the birth of Jesus Christ but also our rebirth in Him.  The wonder and awe and praise and joy and thanksgiving we give to God because of the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas should also be given to Him at Christmas because we have become born again!

While Jesus was clothed in human flesh, we are clothed with the Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our new birth, the being clothed from heaven (verse 2.)

In celebrating Christmas, then, we celebrate not only the birth of Jesus Christ but also our own birth.  Because Jesus Christ was made flesh and God chose to dwell with man, we are enabled by the Spirit to dwell with God.

At Christmas, we are witnesses of and participants in the greatest exchange of gifts in history.  We are partakers of the eternal, divine Christmas.

But the gifts are not equal.  When we as humans exchange gifts at Christmas, we usually try to “even things” out.  If someone’s custom is to give me a $10 gift, then the odds are I’ll probably give them a $10 gift, and if he gives me a $100 gift, I’ll probably give him a $100 gift.

But in the original Christmas, the exchange of gifts was not “fair” or “evened out.”  God gave Himself to mankind, a gift for which there can be no equal.  He gave us His righteousness and eternal life.  And in return we gave Him our sin and death.  Some deal for God, huh?  He must have really loved us to make it!

I like chemistry, and for those chemists who are reading, this is the greatest double replacement reaction ever known.  Jesus Christ who was perfect and without sin becomes sin (verse 21), and we who were sinful become righteous.

It is something like this simple reaction:

NaOH                                     +          HCl     =>        NaCl    +                      HOH (or H20)

Sodium hydroxide + hydrochloric acid  produces  sodium chloride (table salt) + water

Theologically, the “replacement reaction” is like this:

Jesus Christ-righteous + man-sinful    =>   Jesus Christ-sin + man-righteous

But praise God that though the second product of this reaction (the righteous man) continues forever, the first product (Jesus Christ becoming sin) no longer exists!  In God’s exotic chemistry, what really is created is something beyond the understanding of the scientist.  What is created is the following product of the divine chemistry of reconciliation: God-man.  First: Jesus Christ made man; and second: us united with God forever in Christ.  It is the reconciliation of God and man that is the product of the divine reaction that began at Christmas.

If all of this is mumbo-jumbo to you, then at least know this:  Behold!  You are a new creation – a human made righteous in Jesus Christ because Jesus Christ became like you and took away your sin and death.  Because you are now a partaker of the divine nature and have received the greatest Christmas present ever, and because you have been given the love of God along with God Himself, it is now your turn.  Now you, in Christ, are a minister of reconciliation.  Now, with Christ, you are to take the greatest Christmas present of all time, and the only one that truly keeps on giving, and share it with those who are poor in spirit.

This Christmas, as God gave Himself to you, give the gift of God to others.

Christ was born of flesh that we might be born of the Spirit.

Resolution:  I resolve to meditate on God’s incomparable gift of His Son to me.

Prayer:  Father, thank You for the gift of Your Son in my life, who gave Himself for the redemption of the world.  Thank You, Jesus, for becoming like me that I might live with You.  Thank You, Holy Spirit, for making me a fit dwelling place for the Son of God.  Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, help me to show my thankfulness to You by giving You as a gift others.   Amen.

Point for Meditation:

  1. Remember and meditate on your reaction to the greatest Christmas present any human ever gave to you. What did you feel?  Apply this reaction to the gifts that God has given to you.
  2. Meditate on how you can demonstrate your thankfulness to God by being a more faithful minister of reconciliation, by more faithfully sharing the gifts that God has given to you.

© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson

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