Christmas: A Cultural Exchange – of Sorts!

Our youngest daughter is thrilled and apprehensive about her involvement in her local high school’s cultural exchange program. That’s understandable considering the fact the she will fly 14 hours away from our home in America to China for two entire months, staying with a “strange” family, eating “strange” food, and visiting “strange” places – including her temporary high school that contains 20,000 students! I’m sure you can see how our entire family is thrilled and apprehensive – thrilled by the educational opportunity, adventure and travel abroad, and apprehensive about her safety, the cost, (did I mention the cost? Yowsa, we signed up to pay what?!?! Ha-Ha!)

Of course, this exchange program also involves a young person from China coming to stay in our home for two months and taking in all of the “strangeness” of American culture, and being thrilled and apprehensive, too! Imagine calling our American culture “strange”! hmmpf! (Tee-hee…)

As we sat in one of the many meetings last night, thoroughly discussing the details and careful preparations for the exchange, I couldn’t help but see the similarities between this high school cultural exchange and the cultural exchange of the Gospel emphasized at Christmas – AND THE VAST AND ASTONISHINGLY AWESOME DIFFERENCES!

Some similarities between a high school cultural exchange and the Son of God given to us at Christmas in Jesus are:

None!!!

Because, in the first instance, it would have never crossed our minds to think of anything this good apart from God thinking it up and sharing it with us! HaHa! Second, the high school cultural exchange is temporary – only two months, and God was not just interested in visiting with us temporarily and then going back home – ever. At Christmas we are reminded that God was interested in making our flesh His home, sharing His Life and Love with us forever as we are! Plus, it’s one thing for God to get to us, but how are we going to get to Him – the created life to the uncreated Life? As the Apostle John writes, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.”

In other words, we CAN’T get to God apart from God Himself so we need the “impossible” to happen if we are going to get all of the goodness of God! We need someone who can be both God AND man. We need One who can share the things of man with God and who can share the things of God with man so that there is real, abiding, eternal union and cultural exchange with God and Man forever!

In fact, much of the early Church fathers speak of the coming of the Son of God into our humanity as an exchange.

As reaffirmed on a Wikipedia article entitled “Divinization”:

According to Jonathan Jacobs, there were many and varied appeals to divinization in the writings of the Church Fathers.] As what he asserts is “just a small sample”, he lists the following:

  • St. Irenaeus of Lyons stated that God “became what we are in order to make us what he is himself.”
  • St. Clement of Alexandria says that “he who obeys the Lord and follows the prophecy given through him . . . becomes a god while still moving about in the flesh.”
  • St. Athanasius wrote that “God became man so that men might become gods.”
  • St. Cyril of Alexandria says that we “are called ‘temples of God’ and indeed ‘gods’, and so we are.”
  • St. Basil the Great stated that “becoming a god” is the highest goal of all.
  • St. Gregory of Nazianzus implores us to “become gods for (God’s) sake, since (God) became man for our sake.”

Referring to such declarations by the Fathers, the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church says that the central tenet of deification is that, through the incarnation of his Son, God has called human beings to share God’s own life in the Son. It quotes Athanasius: “The Word became flesh … that we, partaking of his Spirit, might be deified” (De Decretis, 14); and Cyril of Alexandria: “We have all become partakers of Him, and have Him in ourselves through the Spirit. For this reason we have become partakers of the divine nature” (In Ioannem, 9).

In his book “The Mediation of Christ”, p.64, Thomas F. Torrance clarifies that, “The Greek Fathers used to speak of that experience as theopoiesis or theosis which does not mean ‘divinisation’, as is so often supposed, but refers to the utterly staggering act of God in which he gives himself to us and adopts us into the communion of his divine life and love through Jesus Christ and in his one Spirit, yet in such a way that we are not made divine but are preserved in our humanity.”

Wow!

At our cultural exchange meeting last night, one of the American hosts spoke of how awkward the first two weeks of having a Chinese student in their home was, but that at the end everyone was crying and saying “I love you” to each other as the student headed back home! How sad! BUT what the Gospel says to us at Christmas (if we are willing to listen) is that the cultural exchange of God giving Himself to us and ourselves to Him in his Son, Jesus, and by the Spirit, is Love, Relationship, Fellowship, Communion and Conversation that will never end! How Glad!

Torrance again, “Because in Jesus Christ human nature is perfectly and indivisibly united to God the Creator, he constituted in his humanity the ontological source and ground of the being of every man and woman, whether they know him or not, but to those who receive and believe in him he is the One in whom and through whom they may be born anew as sons and daughters of the heavenly Father”. I’m receiving Him (Who has already  received us!) this Christmas, how about you?

~ Timothy J. Brassell

6 comments so far

  1. Sherwin Scott on

    Hello Timothy, does the following Christmas message make sense to you?

    For Unto Us A Child Is Born

    “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. (Isaiah 9:6, NIV)

    George Frideric Handel made the scripture above one of the most well-known verses in the Bible. Using the scripture he composed music for the very popular oratorio Messiah. But what may be overlooked when this beautiful music is performed throughout the world is the triune nature of God. It is an ancient prophecy about the Incarnation, the birth of Jesus Christ.
    There is no comma between “Wonderful” and “Counselor” in several modern translations. To name some of them: New International Version; Amplified Bible; Common English Bible; English Standard Version; The Message Bible; New American Standard Bible; New Living Translation. “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God” is a reference to the Holy Spirit. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”. (John 14:26). “…you have lied to the Holy Spirit…You have not lied to men but to God”. (Acts 5:3-4). “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand…” (1 Peter 5:6).
    “Everlasting Father” is clearly a reference to God the Father. God is a Father, we are his children. “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!” (Hebrews 12:9).
    “Prince of Peace” is none other than Jesus, the Son. The prophecy in Isaiah predicted that not only will a child be born, but also that a son will be given. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. (John 3:16). “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel”. (Acts 5:31).
    This ancient prophecy about the Incarnation clearly shows the triune or trinitarian nature of God, that he is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form”. (Colossians 2:9).

  2. tjbrassell on

    Hello Sherwin!

    Yes, in the light of the God revealed in and by Jesus Christ as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, your interpretation of the text in Isaiah makes all the godly sense in the world! Ha-Ha! One of those rare hints and glimpses from the Old Testament of the God to be revealed most personally and clearly in Jesus the Christ!

    Thanks for sharing and participating with the triune God in His ongoing proclamation of He Himself being our Good News!

    Peace, Love and Blessings!

  3. Boyd Merriman on

    Congratulations on being a part of this cultural exchange! I just hope she learned some Chinese before she leaves! And McDonalds may ask “Would you like some squid with that?” Ha!

    Thanks for reminding us that God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) came and made flesh His Temple. God destroyed the temple made with human hands, but has no intention of destroying the temple called Flesh. And that is one more PROOF that Jesus is still flesh because he entered into that temple and not only stayed in that temple, but took that temple (flesh) back home in His Culture and “Country”. This is more than just an exchange, this is adoption by adopting OUR Flesh (and some of our culture) to become HIS OWN Forever! Seems as I’m writing this, the Holy Spirit adds more “eureka” to this understanding!

    Boyd

  4. tjbrassell on

    Hey Boyd!

    Thanks for sharing in the discussion! Great point about how things get lost in translation with us sinners! 🙂 Thank God for Jesus Who shares the fullness of both God and Man, and without sin! Yes, that beautiful and useful biblical term “adoption” pretty much hits it on the head and may we all keep experiencing more “Eureka!” in the Spirit!

    Peace, Love and Blessings!

  5. Jerome Ellard on

    Good story and comparison, Pastor Tim. It is wonderful how Holy Spirit uses the things of our life here on earth to remind us of the loving plan of God! And thanks for the reminder that God had to come to us, how were we going to find God otherwise! That gives me great assurance, that we have a God who pursues us and never gives up that pursuit! I’m reminded of Christian comedian Mark Lowry’s comment: “In this great big universe, how we gonna find God? He had to come find us! The best we can do is send a Tonka truck to Mars called Barney, and we haven’t heard from him since!” Merry Christmas, or should I say 圣诞快乐 新年快乐!!!

  6. tjbrassell on

    Hello Jerome! Yes, thank God it is all included and therefore redeemed by God the Trinity to help us See, Be and Do who we really are in and with Him! I share in your assurance and appreciate your share in his humor! Looks like i have some sharpening up to do on my Chinese speaking, reading and writing before our Chinese sister arrives here! Good gravy! How did you do that? Ha-Ha! Google translation, here I come! 🙂 Merry Christmas to you, too!

    Peace, Love and Blessings!


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