Celebrating the Great Reversal; The Promise of Christ
- 2008 24 Dec
In C.S. Lewis's masterful children's story The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he tells of a country, Narnia, which is under the curse of the White Witch. This evil queen places a spell on the land so that it is "always winter and never Christmas." Under her control, the future of Narnia looks bleak until word gets out that "Aslan is on the move." In the story, Aslan is a noble lion who represents Christ. He is coming to set things straight. He is coming to destroy the White Witch and thus reverse the curse on Narnia. The first sign of Aslan's movement toward this cursed land is that the snow begins to melt-"spring is in the air." The cold begins to fade as the sun rays peer through the dark clouds, promising the dawn of a new day. Everything in Narnia begins to change.
You'll have to read the book to see how the story ends, but when I'm asked to describe the true meaning of Christmas, I like to say that the birth of Christ is the sure and certain sign that "God is on the move." The arrival of Jesus two-thousand years ago ensured that God had begun the process of reversing the curse of sin and recreating all things. In Jesus, God was moving in a new way and, in the words of C.S. Lewis, "winter began stirring backwards."
All of Jesus' ministry--the words he spoke, the miracles he performed--showed that there was a new order in town: God's order. When Jesus healed the diseased, raised the dead, and forgave the desperate, he did so to show that with the arrival of God in the flesh came the restoration of the way God intended things to be. New life was given, health was restored; God was reversing the curse of death, disease, and discomfort. The incarnation of Christ began the "great reversal."
Tim Keller observes that Christ's miracles were not the suspension of the natural order but the restoration of the natural order. They were a reminder of what once was prior to the Fall and a preview of what will eventually be a universal reality once again--a world of peace and justice, without death, disease, or conflict.
To be sure, when Christ comes again, the process of reversing the curse of sin and recreating all things will be complete (1 Cor. 15:51-58). The peace on earth that the angels announced the night Christ was born will become a universal actuality. God's cosmic rescue mission will be complete. The fraying fabric of our fallen world will be fully and perfectly rewoven. Everything and everyone "in Christ" will live in perfect harmony. Shalom will rule.
Isaiah pictures it this way:
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
For those who have found forgiveness of sins in Christ, there will one day be no more sickness, no more death, no more tears, no more division, no more tension. The pardoned children of God will work and worship in a perfectly renewed earth without the interference of sin. We who believe the gospel will enjoy sinless hearts and minds along with disease-free bodies. All that causes us pain and discomfort will be destroyed, and we will live forever. We'll finally be able, as John Piper says, "to enjoy what is most enjoyable with unbounded energy and passion forever."
Christmas is the celebration of this process begun and the promise that it will one day be completed.
William Graham Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin) is a Florida native, the founding pastor of New City Church (EPC) just outside of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, a visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham. A graduate of Columbia International University (philosophy) and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Tullian is the author of The Kingdom of God: A Primer on the Christian Life (Banner of Truth), Do I Know God? Finding Certainty in Life's Most Important Relationship (Multnomah) and Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different (Multnomah, forthcoming April 2009). The author of numerous articles, Tullian is a contributing editor to Leadership Journal. Tullian speaks at conferences throughout the U.S. and his sermons are broadcast daily on the radio program Godward Living.