Doug and Gary were always the last to leave the office. Doug always turned off the lights as Gary set the alarm, and on Fridays, Gary always asked Doug if he wanted to join him for church that weekend.
“Actually, I’m going to church with my wife on Sunday,” Doug replied.
“Oh right. I forgot you’re a CEO,” Gary said smiling.
“Christmas and Easter only.” They both laughed, and Gary continued, “You know it’s good that you’re going, but you always pick the two hardest days.”
“I know,” returned Doug, “The parking at that church is miserable at Christmas.”
“No, that’s not what I mean; you always choose incarnation and atonement. They’re the toughest ones to grasp.”
“Wait a minute, I thought you wanted me to attend church.”
“I do, but think about it; if you show up for The Good Samaritan, the message is ‘love your neighbor,’ that’s easy! And if you show up for ‘husbands love your wives,’ well two minutes in and you’ve got that one. But incarnation –”
“Do you mean the flower or the canned milk?”
“No it’s the idea of God becoming man, God becoming one of us. See, God is like those triplicate materials requisition forms we send to head office. The kind where what you write on the top part goes through to all three. But then God Himself rips out one of the pages — let’s call it the middle one — and then the letter to the Philippians tells us that that part of God took on the role of a servant and entered into the human condition even to the point of experiencing human death, and a rather excruciating one at that.”
“So you’re talking about Jesus. You’re saying he was 50 percent man and 50 percent God. Like a centaur?”
“No it’s not 50/50, more like 100/100.”
“So that’s gotta hurt. Why would he do that?”
“Well that’s the Easter part, the atonement part. In another letter, to a young disciple named Timothy, the same writer wrote that ‘Christ came into the world to save sinners, of which I’m the worst.’”
“The guy who wrote part of the Bible said he was the worst?”
“Jesus himself said he ‘came into the world to look for and save people who were lost.’ In another part he said that he came into the world to give his life as a ransom payment for many; and in yet another written account of his life we read that he didn’t come to condemn — which is what a lot of people think church is all about lately — but that through him everybody could have eternal life.”
“So you’re talking about going to heaven when you die?”
“Well, actually, eternal life starts now.”
“How come I never heard that at a Christmas service before?”
“You did, but you probably weren’t tuned in to it. You heard the carols, but missed the connection between incarnation and atonement, and you can’t have the one without the other. Ultimately, Jesus — the baby in the manger — came to die for the world, for me, for you.”
“Wow;” Doug said, “I never heard it like that.”
Phil 2, I Tim 1:15, Luke 19:10, Matthew 20:28, John 3:17