All religions are about people searching for God. Some do it through rituals and ceremonies, and others through sacrifices. Some use meditation and contemplation, and others seek enlightenment. Some use vision quests. Religion is about what people can do to reach out to God or gods and get the gods to perform for you.
They may be seeking a god or gods who can provide blessings, abundance, power, success or eternal life, however, Romans 3:11 says that they are not seeking the God of the Bible. The root of the word religion is the same root as in the word obligation. “Lig” means “to bind.” As in a ligament that binds bone to bone, or a ligature that binds a reed to the mouthpiece of a clarinet. Religion, for some, is a bargaining chip to obligate their god to do something for them. They say, “God, if you do this, I’ll do that.” Whatever that is. We bargain with God by saying, “I will go to church on Sunday; I will give money; I will do good deeds, if you will do…fill in the blank.”
Christianity differs, however, in that in Christ, God was seeking mankind. The account in John’s Gospel begins in verse one saying that the Word was God. Verse three states that nothing that exists came into being without the Word creating it. Verse 14 goes on to say that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).
The phrase “dwelt among us” literally translates a verb that means to pitch a tent. That word signifies that the eternal Word of verse one took on a temporary dwelling place to live among mankind. At Christmas, we celebrate this event as the eternal God becoming flesh. We call that the Incarnation. This is not mankind reaching out to God. It is God reaching down to mankind.
God created Adam and Eve to live in fellowship with him. He walked with them in the garden of Eden until sin entered the relationship. God could no longer dwell with mankind, so he initiated a new plan. He spoke of the seed of the woman who would crush the tempter’s head (Genesis 3:15). That seed was Jesus Christ born of the virgin. He was the seed of the woman.
In Christ God became man. Once again, he dwelt among people in a temporary dwelling that the Bible calls a tent or tabernacle. In the flesh, Christ taught people how to live, how to die to self, and how to be born again, but he did not come just to establish a new religion or another system to obligate God to fulfill people’s desires. The final step in his mission was to give his life as a sacrifice for sin. His body was laid in the tomb, and three days later, he took up that body again. It was transformed into its eternal glory, never to die again.
At the end of the ages, God will dwell again with mankind. Revelation 21:3 says that the tabernacle or dwelling place of God will be with mankind in a new heavens and new earth. He will actually dwell with his people on that new earth. By that time, Satan will have been vanquished and evil will have been destroyed. The final enemy, death, will have been eliminated. Those who were born again will live forever in God’s presence in a newly created universe.
The present of Christmas is not something that we give to each other. This present is what God gave to us. He gave us his best, his only Son. To as many as receive this gift, God gives the right to become his children (John 1:12). The gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son does not have life (First John 5:12).
If you have not received God’s gift, I hope that this year, you will receive Christ as your Savior and Lord. The way you show appreciation for the gift that God is given you is by living in a way that honors Christ. Your life becomes a “Thank You” note to God.