“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all…” —Titus 2:11
As we reach the end of our Advent journey and enter the joy of Christmas Eve, we reflect on a question our ministry partners around the world are often asked. Why would God do something as outlandish as being born into this world as a helpless baby in a manger? How would you answer?
Some years ago, The Christian Century magazine asked theologians to respond to another question. They asked, “What is the Gospel in seven words?” William Willimon, a bishop in the United Methodist Church, gave this response: “God refuses to be God without us.”
Does that not sound like Christmas—God getting personal in the form of a helpless child? The Christmas story tells us that God did not just come in Spirit, but in flesh and blood. A child who could be held and burped and rocked to sleep. A child who could wrap his tiny hand around his mother’s finger. He became Love personified—relentlessly pursuing us with His extravagant grace. Every character and theme in this Advent devotional points toward Jesus. He is the center; Israel’s dreams and hopes were fulfilled in Him, and so are ours.
This is Good News of great joy. Jesus came to earth—fully human, yet fully God—to reconcile all peoples to Himself through relationship with us. The arc of God’s story is one of covenant love and faithfulness. He pulls out all the stops to be with us—from manger to cross to empty tomb and resurrected life. We celebrate, knowing that one day He will come again. On that day people from every nation, tribe and tongue will gather in worship (Revelation 7:9). Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).
If someone asks you to explain the Gospel in seven words this Christmas season, what would you say? Thank you, God, for refusing to be God without us!