Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry ground ‘land,’ and the gathered waters he called ‘seas.’ And God saw that it was good.
GENESIS 1:1–2, 9–10
What most of us mean by ‘the Christmas story’ is told in only 120 verses, split between the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
With scant textual detail to play with, our imaginations have furnished wide-eyed sheep, woolly and worshipful; a star hovering tastefully above a rustic shack; and a caravan of camels. It’s a jewel of a tale – the reason for the season. But what’s the reason for the reason? Why was God born in baby form?
To unpack the mystery in those swaddling clothes, we need to start all the way back at the very beginning. This child came to save the world, the Gospel of John tells us (John 3:17).
Even then, no one would have argued with the fact it needed saving. Jesus was born into a world where a jealous king was soon to have a generation of baby boys slaughtered on the off chance one might grow up to take his throne. His homeland was under occupation – again – and his people had a history of both causing and enduring terrible suffering. Now we could add the crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, increasing levels of poverty and inequality, global pandemics, and the list goes on.
Bearing all this in mind, we might ask: why save the world instead of just scrapping it? These verses from Genesis give us two explanations. First, ‘God created the heavens and the earth’ (v1). There is a profound bond between maker and made. God summoned us from nothing, and every atom that exists is his. In creating the universe, he was making an eternal investment in all of it.
Second, this creation of his was made good and is worth restoring, whatever the cost. Have you seen a dewy spider’s web in early morning winter sun lately? Have you stopped to pay close attention to the outrageous red of a holly berry or watched clouds speeding past the moon on a blowy night? There is so much beauty, detail, complexity, and purpose in this world.
If we begin where the Bible does, with love and goodness and a riot of colourful creatures, plants, planets, and oceans, we’ll see the value God has imbued in our lives, however grubby and small we may feel. The world around us is worth redeeming. It all matters.
Jesus wasn’t born as a human just because of how awful sin is. He also came because of the world’s goodness and its worth.
Director of Communications, A Rocha. Jo and LICC have teamed up to adapt her 2021 Advent book, The Whole Christmas Story, into a 25-day devotional journey that connects the whole story of Christmas to the whole of our lives.
Where do you see the goodness and beauty of God’s creation on your frontline, this week? Join the conversation below.