Merry Christmas from the Hopetown family!
As we often try to get others to look and think about life in ways they may never have before, I wanted to do the same thing with this 'Christmas edition' post. In order to do that, let's look at a passage of Scripture from the Old Testament that probably has never been used in the history of Christmas sermons- The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).
1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” 5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” 8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
If you're like me, there are a lot of questions that go along with this passage. However, for today's purposes, let's look at this passage from a simple, literary perspective. Here's your English lesson for the day...
From people that know about the Bible way more than me, the literary structure used in this passage is called a chiastic structure. A chiastic structure can look either like this:
A – B – C – B’ – A’ (one central element)
or like this:
A – B – C – C’ – B’ – A’ (two central elements)
The focus of the chiastic structure is on the central element(s). Whatever the author places in the central position of the structure probably has some significance for the meaning of the whole passage. In biblical narratives, the center of a chiastic structure often also marks the turning point of the story. In this particular story, the chiastic structure looks like:
A Introductory statement: the whole earth had the same language (v 1)
B Journey and settlement – place name: Shinar (v 2)
C Human speech: Come, let us (vv 3-4)
D God comes down to see (v 5)
C’ Divine speech: Come, let us (vv 6-7)
B’ Scattering – place name: Babel (vv 8-9a)
A’ Concluding statement: God confused the language of the whole earth (v 9b)
There are a 100 different sermons that could come from the passage, but what is the central idea, according to the chiastic structure, that the author is trying to display to the reader? Verse 5 right?
God came down.
It is ironic isn't it? The people of God, trying so hard to to build something in order to see God, and God himself comes down from Heaven to see what what they're up to!
There are many different storylines that this Christmas season could be about for us and our families. There are probably some good things going on in our lives, and most likely some bad. However, in the midst of everything that is going on and the busyness that can so easily choke the joy of this season away, like the writer of Genesis 11, I want there to be one central point of significance to this Christmas season. And that is that Jesus came.
Like the story of Babel, when there was sin, confusion, and a lot of trying to reach Heaven by our own means over 2000 years ago, Jesus came. However, he didn't come in the form that so many thought he would come. He came in the form of a humble, helpless, needy baby. As one author writes,
Not a man.
Not an obvious Messiah.
Not a solider or a king.
Why a baby? I don't know all the of the reasons why he came as a baby, but I am thankful that he did. An author wrote, "Christmas celebrates the awesome and amazing fact that God is grander, wiser and more mysterious than we could have ever imagined. We can never hope to capture the Christmas spirit and make it our own unless we understand that God is so much greater than we ever thought He was. We thought we knew all about God. The incarnation proved us wrong."
I agree with David Jeremiah, in that all the Christmas presents in the world are worth nothing without the presence of Christ. A.F. Wells says, "Take Christ out of Christmas, and December becomes the bleakest and most colorless month of the year."
No matter the circumstances of today, but especially today, I am so thankful that Jesus came. He is indeed the reason for the season.
Merry Christmas Everyone!