The story of Christmas is about the wonder of New Creation. Just as the creation narrative displays the wonder of God’s handiwork so do the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Mary is a teenager engaged to be married to Joseph according to the local custom. An angel brings to Mary an appointment letter from heaven for a unique task. She is to be pregnant with God’s son before her marriage to Joseph is consummated! This will happen just as the Spirit of God envelops her as at creation. Mary is taken aback! Yet gives a pensive reply to the Angel’s startling challenge: “I am the Lord’s handmaid; let it be to me according to your word”. Matthew briefly reports Joseph’s marriage to pregnant Mary. This was his hardest struggle; how could this be? ‘How can I protect Mary and yet be upright before God and society’? His turmoil is resolved by God’s voice through an Angel in a dream. Joseph welcomes Mary as his wife.
The story of the birth of Jesus is a counter narrative to the first couple in Genesis. Mary and Joseph submitted to God’s plan without counting the cost. But Adam followed suit after Eve and disobeyed God. Joseph is yoked with Mary’s surrender; together they pay a heavy price. The family lives in shame. They with their infant become fugitives in a foreign land. Yet God’s will is to prosper in their suffering. Jesus on his part in the words of the classic hymn Amazing Grace, ‘emptied himself of all but love’. He became poor and vulnerable (2 Cor 8:9). The creator of all humbled himself like one who is created (Rom 8:3). The Holy family’s trajectory of obedience to God’s will culminates in Jesus’ demeaning crucifixion at Golgotha.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
In about a quarter of a century after the heart-rending cry of dereliction,
uttered by the most perfect doer of all that only pleased God, St Paul
sheds fresh light on the silence of heaven! God indeed was not absent
at Calvary: he was active and present in the cross. “God was in Christ
reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19).
The gospel story beginning with the teenager Mary and young Joseph
and climaxing in Jesus’ death and resurrection is indeed the good news
of new creation. The vision of life confessed by the first couple (Gen 3:6)
is deceptive. “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food and
pleasing the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom she took some
and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and
he ate it”. It leads to death! Authentic life emerges within the controlling
ambit of God’s love imposingly painted by the sufferings of Christ (2 Cor
5:14). The love of God generates life and flourishes it in the love for God.
This is the new beginning, the new creation which re-graphs human
rationality (2 Cor 5:16) and raison de etre.
New creation is both a mindset and lifestyle in antithesis to Gen 3:6.
The experience of new creation emerges out of our union with Christ.
Participation in new creation is the ‘the normal Christian life’. Jesus
placed God and the neighbor as his reason to live for. New creation does
not tally with selfish consumption or accumulation of wealth. On the
contrary, it seeks the welfare of the other within the good pleasure of
God. In the light of Gen 3:6, the way of Jesus is at odds with basic human
instincts. Under the shadows of Gen 3:6 embracing suffering love in
obedience to God and for the welfare of others is a ludicrous misnomer
for ‘life at its fulness’. New creation rather syncs with Joseph and Mary
who inadvertently were privileged to walk in the way of Jesus – the way of
the cross – in the power of the Spirit!
New Creation in Christ challenges social segregation that emerged out
the rebellion of Eden and Babel. Fragmented humanity has ever since
been raising the heights of the walls of partition. Fortification of the
collective identity of a group promotes the violent exclusion of the ‘other’.
Segregation becomes demonic as it denies dignity to the excluded other.
This is true of ethnic, economic, gender, caste, color, class, technological
and ideological biases. St Paul applies new creation to the human
collectives as he calls the bluff of ideologies that segregate. In Gal 6:15-16,
he articulated it poignantly: “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision
means anything. What counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all
who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God”. This theme is stated with
similar sharpness in Gal 3:28 & Eph 2:11-22.
Participation in Christ engages a radically renewed mentality and life
style. It invites a world at war with God and one another to the peace and
reconciliation that God has made through the Gospel. As we decorate this
year’s cribs humming “Mary did you know… that your baby boy has come to
make you new” we are invited to share the life of Christ. New creation walks
the way of the cross in love. It involves a radical denial of Adamic patterns of
decaying selfishness and destructive exclusion. It celebrates the humanity of
the crucified and risen Christ as we embrace one another with respect and
love: that is our union with Christ! Christ in us and we in him!
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