Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! But its not because of the “kids who are jingle belling” or because there will be “much mistletoeing” or because “hearts be a glowing.” Christmas is amazing and wondrous because of the profound truths proclaimed during the season. This month at Community Church we are going to dig into the theology of Christmas and think hard about what this season teaches us about God’s nature.
John’s gospel begins with a unique account of Jesus’ birth. John writes,
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the Word was with God. He was with God in the beginning.”
Instead of shepherds, wise men and a baby in a manger, we find a well-developed explanation of the divinity and the preexistence of Christ. These theological truths fall under a bigger umbrella of discussion on the doctrine of the Trinity. John is saying you can’t have Christmas without the doctrine of the trinity.
The doctrine of the trinity says that God exists as one God in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is much that can be said about the biblical evidence, the logic and misunderstandings of the Trinity. Check out http://www.mpcc.org where I tackle those issues during our Heart of Christmas Series. For this blog, I want to talk about how God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit relate to each other.
John 15:9 gives us a glimpse into the relationships at work within the trinity. He writes, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” A little earlier in John 14, Jesus reciprocates this sentiment by saying “I love the Father.” The trinity is characterized by mutual love. We see the same happening with the way the Holy Spirit relates to the Father and the Son. It is fascinating to explore what the Bible says about the nature of this triune love.
First, it is a love that is other-centered and seeks mutual glory. Dale Bruner in his book on the trinity talks about it as divine shyness. He writes,
“what I mean here is not the shyness of timidity but the shyness of deference, the shyness of concentrated attention on another; it is not shyness (which we often experience) of self-centeredness, but the shyness of other-centeredness.”
The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to draw attention away from itself and instead puts the spotlight on the Son. John 14:26 says that the “Spirit will remind you of all I [Jesus] have said.” Again John 16:13, “[the Holy Spirit] will not speak on his own, he speaks only what he hears.”
It is the same with the Son. He didn’t tout his own glory. He defers to the Father. In Gethsemane, Jesus said, “not my will but yours [the father] be done.”
Even God the Father on two occasions verbally affirms the glory of the Son. “This is my son. I am pleased with him. Listen to what he says.”
“the whole blessed trinity points faithfully and selflessly to the other in a gracious circle.”
Second, it is a love that guards unity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit act in harmony. God the Son will never act in a way that undermines the purpose of the Father. The Father will never direct the Spirit in a way that is contrary to the teachings of Christ. The Spirit will always guide according to the heart of the Father. In the Godhead there is no backbiting, no passive aggressiveness, no end running. There is only unity of purpose and mission.
Third, it is a love that gives beyond itself. At Christmas we are reminded that Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, left the comforts and security of heaven to become vulnerable here among us. He became one of us to extend God’s triune love to the world. The Father also sacrificed as a father grieving the loss of his Son. “God so loved the world that he gave is one and only Son.” The Father endured a wounded heart by letting his Son go. The Bible also talks about how the Holy Spirit expressed the triune love by being poured out on to earth. The Spirit endures seeing how his promptings go largely unnoticed and he is grieved by people’s unwillingness to follow. Each person of the trinity expresses their common love through sacrifice.
The wonder of Christmas is that God has given us an invitation to his community of love. Through the birth of the savior we are invited to enter the love circle and relate to God personally as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are also invited to reflect that love with others.
If you are a Christ-follower who has been brought into the very heart of God, how are you doing in loving like God loves?
How are you doing when it comes to humility and deferring honor to those around you?
How are you in guarding unity in your family and in your church?
How might God be calling you to extend his love beyond yourself?
A great 20th century theologian once said, “trinity is the Christian name for God.” May you discover the wonder of God as one and three this Christmas season.