Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone! Today we celebrate the condescension of God, in that the Christ was born of a mortal woman to redeem us.

And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly faith and white. And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou? And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins. And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God? And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things. And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh. And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! (1 Nephi 11:13-21a)

We'll most likely differ about how exactly God condescended in the event we're celebrating. Many Latter-day Saints, if I recall correctly, put the emphasis on the Father's condescension to beget a mortal son by a mortal woman (whatever that 'begetting' might have entailed; some statements from LDS authorities suggest that it was through sexual union between the Father and Mary, although this is neither officially taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints nor officially repudiated by them), despite being himself immortal and the Father of our spirits. For Evangelicals and many other varieties of Christians, the focus would be instead on God the Son's condescension to take upon himself our nature - a created nature not his own - and join that with his own divine nature in the hypostatic union; and, in doing that, to submit himself to all the immense sufferings of this age, culminating on Golgotha in his atoning sacrifice. After all, the act we celebrate is that in which the Son of God "made himself of no reputation [lit., emptied himself], and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:7). Perhaps, despite these differences, we can agree that in some manner, this was a humble act on the part of the Godhead as a whole, expressing the sort of self-giving love that through Christ we recognize to be the constituting factor of God's character.

People are divided over when exactly Jesus was born - some Latter-day Saints believe that it was April 6th based on a certain interpretation of D&C 20:1, but see this excellent review by Kevin Barney of LDS views of the dating of Christ's birth - but we can all agree to celebrate it and rejoice in it.

So, Merry Christmas!

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