Christmas: When Love Overcame Power
Christmas shatters the image of a harsh God. Out of love, God limited his power and chose to be born as a baby.
Earlier this year, Beliefnet member "irishclarity"posted
the following question on the Christianity message boards:
"How do I shed a [harsh] image of God? I try and I can't. This is the only God I know. I can't seem to find the loving God some speak of. And so....I wish I never knew God. I wish I was never raised to be a Christian.
"For me, God is a big entity somewhere out there. He is neither personal, nor caring, nor loving. Never has been. At least not for me. And the thought of ever reconciling myself to him and seeing him differently just seems an impossibility."
Tony Campolo responds:
Christmas shatters any idea that God is some kind of vengeful tyrant bent on smiting any who fail to live up to His expectations. The image of a harsh, punishing deity is contradicted when we discover that our God was incarnated in a baby in Bethlehem's manger.
What we realize with the birth of Jesus is that God is a loving person who was willing to give up power in order to express His love. At Christmas we are reminded, as it says in the second chapter of Philippians, that the same God who had the power to toss the galaxies into outer space and set electrons spinning in inner space loved us enough to set aside all that power in order to show that love.
Soren Kierkegaard, the nineteenth-century theologian and philosopher, once told the story of a prince who had fallen in love with a peasant girl. This prince knew that if he presented himself to her with all of his royal trappings, she would be overawed by him. His power and majesty would render her incapable of freely choosing to love him. Knowing this, the prince took off his royal garments, set aside his crown, and dressed himself as a peasant. He became a peasant in her eyes, so that in this guise she could choose to love him or not, for his own sake.
So it was with God at that first Christmas. If He had not been willing to put His power "on hold," loving Him would be impossible. We would not have the freedom needed to choose love if our God powerfully controlled everything. If all that we thought and did was under the control of His power, then love, freely given, would not be possible.