Recently, a co-worker asked whether we’ve reached the place in American culture where Christianity is seen as a fringe system of belief. I rattled off nine reasons why, if we’re honest, Christianity should be considered a fringe system of belief to those in the world at large. This Advent season, I’m exploring these beliefs and offering a somewhat surprising conclusion. Today, I'll explore the remaining reasons and conclusion.
MY COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL, UNSCIENTIFIC, ORTHODOX, FRINGE SYSTEM OF BELIEF
POINTS 8-9 AND A BRIEF CONCLUSION:
As if the life of Jesus were not supernatural enough, Jesus stood clothed in his resurrected body on the mountainside, and he instructed his disciples one last time. "Preach, proclaim, and publish the good news about me," he said. "Teach people my ways. And by the way, you'll soon receive the power of the Holy Spirit." Can you see the disciples whispering to each other? "Who is the Holy Spirit? Is this another mysterious Parable?" they might have been asking. But before they could muster the audacity to wedge their questions into the conversation, Jesus spread his arms wide as an eagle and caught an updraft to heaven. Just like that, Jesus was gone.
His actions must have befuddled the disciples. Here one day, Jesus was healing the sick and casting out demons. Gone the next, Jesus was crucified on the cross. Here again, Jesus had risen from the dead and dined among them. And now? Jesus had flown the coop, gone to only God-knows-where, and left with only the promise of a good ghost haunting.
The disciples returned to the upper room in confusion, in trembling, perhaps in anger of the ever-leaving Messiah. There, as they tended to the business of replacing Judas the betrayer, the sound of a rushing wind filled the room and fire descended, licked the air over their heads. They left, filled with this new and strange fire, this Holy Spirit over their heads and in their mouths. They street-preached the secrets of God. They street-preached conversion and the spread of Christianity began.
Jesus' power was confined to his personage during his life. Risen from the dead, he could have stayed eternally, could have set up a kingdom of power and dominance. Instead, he chose ascension and left a Spirit-gift. It was his last holy conundrum--he vacated the world so he could fill it.
Like any unsolvable equation, the world continues to cast quizzical glances toward the life of Jesus. Was he a prophet? Was he a good teacher? Was he a yellow-toothed carpenter with a set of crazy eyes and enough charisma to scare up a band of followers that flouted the governments of the day? To the believer of the Christian story, the supernatural facets of his life--his birth of a virgin, his death and resurrection, his ascension, his gifting of the Holy Spirit--show him to be the diamond of all time and space. Jesus was God, and he came to be God With Us. And this, we say, has made all the difference.
Do you see it? This is why we celebrate Advent and Christmas. It is the supernatural, unbelievable, audacious story of God swinging low. And this leads us to the final question: has our western, hyper-rational society come to a point where it sees Christianity as a counter-rational, fringe system of belief? I might offer this answer: if it does not, perhaps Christians are doing something wrong; perhaps we are teaching something far less Christian than we'd like to admit.
A CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY AND A COUPON CODE
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