Baby Changes Everything
Just before Christmas we received Terrence Malick’s new film Tree of Life, via Netflix DVD, so Barb and I and Scott sat down to watch it about 8 pm. Barb left after 15 minutes and Scott left after a half-hour. It was a ways out there, but I found it fascinating as he described a young man growing up in a Catholic home in the 1950’s in Waco, Texas. In the course of the film we saw a father who believed in ruling his household by the law and a mother who lived by grace. We also saw Creation, dinosaurs, and the end of the world. It was a deeply spiritual movie, but a linger question that Malick seemed to be asking was: “Is this all there is to life?”
It seems to me that there are essentially two perspectives on life. Obviously there are some subsets, but I think they boil down to two main worldviews. Please forgive my use of a word I don’t usually use, but it comes from the bumper sticker philosophy that describes this larger worldview and that is: “Life’s a bitch and then you die.”
Largely, this view would be described this way. We are the result of a process of evolution that was guided only by natural selection and or genetic mutation. We will continue to evolve unless we managed to destroy ourselves through nuclear war, global warming, or disease. Life is hard, but we can find a measure of happiness and even do some good things for others. When our life is done we are recycled by burial or cremation. There is nothing to look forward to after death because we will be no more.
In the movie these questions of God, worldview, life, etc. where constantly being asked in one way or another, but the answer Malick seemed to offer was the sequence in the moving showing the eventual destruction of our star, the Sun, and our planet. Our solar system would have lived out its course and is now reduced to a white dwarf star and human beings are no more.
There is another worldview. It happens to be a worldview chosen by some, but not all, of the greatest thinkers our world has known. One of the most well-know of which in recent times is Francis Collins the Director of the Human Genome Project.
This worldview goes like this. In the beginning there was something there besides matter. Our universe was created by an Intelligence vastly beyond our own. Creation may have happened five billion years ago with the Big Bang or in more recent times, but Creation was not without purpose or direction. It was accomplished by a Creator who existed in the community of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The love for each other within the Three ended up in Creation. Creation ended up in us. But created with a free will, we messed up. God tried to fix it with a people of his own, Israel, but ended up fixing it with a baby who was called Jesus.
Now I may be biased, but I find this worldview far more believable and I must confess, attractive, than the one that says, “Life’s a bitch and then you die.”
Baby Changes Everything
So for everyone else that is going through some enormous trials: here is the difference the Christ Child makes.
a. We have a Life-Saver (Savior)
We have talked about this baby being God’s rescue mission. I don’t have to look too far in my own life to see that I fall short of what God intended for me and at times how I actively rebel against what I know to be his will. We call this sin and I would be lost if it weren’t for a Life-Saver, who took my sin away. We call it redemption. A do-over. A whipping the slate clean.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
The ramifications of this are many, but it means we don’t have to go around carrying guilt about our mistakes. It also means we can be one with our Lord.
b. We have the Spirit of God living in us
The Christian life is not just one of coming to a new worldview. According to the Scriptures God comes and takes up residence in our lives.
But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)
He provides comfort, power for living the right way and sharing the Good News with others, and he guides us.
c. We have a family (community)
One God exists in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Isn’t it amazing that God lives in community! God invites us into community and we become family with God and with each other. I have discovered the Jade Palace down by the Antique Mall is a great place for a reasonable lunch. So I was doing some studying at lunch when the pleasant lady who runs the restaurant brought my fortune cookie. It said: “You will be surrounded by those who love you.” I was blessed by the thought, but realized that is more than the sentiment of a fortune cookie. It is the promise of God regarding a healthy community. Jesus says:
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35)
As a pastor I love to see this in action. I know the small group to which Bob and Sharon belong have done remodeling to help make their home accessible. They have built a ramp. They have prayed for them. They have helped bear their burden. The old song says, “You’ll never walk alone.” That is the way it is supposed to be because we are family.
d. We have a Kingdom
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:7)
As hard as it is to understand, when we chose to follow the baby, we stepped across a threshold into the Kingdom of God. We made a decision to give up the leadership of our own lives and decided to allow the ruler of the Kingdom to take over.
If you remember in the movie The Matrix, Neo offered Morpheas the decision between a blue pill and a red pill. One would have him continue life as it was. The other would open up a whole new world called the Matrix. When you choose to follow Jesus, you choose to open up a whole new world called the kingdom of God. It is a place where God rules and reigns. It lasts forever. I is good. It is a vision of reality to which you can direct the efforts of the rest of your life. It gives meaning and purpose. It changes lives.
And when you choose to enter the kingdom of God it makes the journey through death so much easier, because we have already entered the kingdom. We just have an opportunity now to meet the One to whose kingdom we belong. And our work continues on the other side.