Look closely at your famous Renaissance paintings of the nativity, and you will likely find destruction around the holy family as opposed to peace. Leonardo da Vinci illustrates a crumbling civilization especially well: deteriorating structures, vegetation growing out of walls, and troubled visitors.
Jesus’ birth marks the end of the world. What else would happen when “He through whom the world was made” comes into the world? John the Baptist certainly got that right! He called people to repentance because the end was coming. Well, the end of this age and the beginning of a new age. The age of death, guilt and shame, Satan, power and might, has a taken a backseat to the reign of God inaugurated that December night.
On Christmas we don’t celebrate just an event, as amazing as the incarnation is. But we celebrate the beginning of a new era, a new era in which we live now. How soon we forget that we are living in an era that people before Christ did not know! We live in a time when sinners are released of their shame, guilt and sentence due to God’s complete forgiveness won by Christ. We live in an age that Jesus sums up perfectly to Martha in John 11. As Martha struggles to understand why Jesus delayed seeing Lazarus before he had died, she says that she believes in the coming resurrection. Jesus corrects her calendar by saying, “I am the resurrection. Whoever believes in me will never die!” What you now know about God, was not known before.
You live in an era where we saw the inside working of God trying to get out of saving humanity on the cross. You have heard God cry and yell at His father, “Why have you forsaken me?” You have seen Him bleed for you. People have touched His resurrected hands and side.
God’s kingdom has come. The old one has been cut off at the head, though the body wiggles about pretending to be alive. This is what Christmas is all about. God has come. The end has begun. The kingdom of heaven is here and advancing.
Do not be afraid!
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
– Journey of the Magi, T. S. Eliot