Our daughter, Clover, has a cute expression that until this morning I’d always thought was a product of screen time. Turns out it’s her own work.
It plays out like this: something happens, a request is made, the law is laid down and, somewhere in there Clover (or us) will say: “Is that a good idea or a big deal?”
Over time, I think the meaning has changed. I used to think that a big deal was the opposite of a good idea; now I think it’s transitioned to being a really, really, really good idea. They’re your two options.
As she said it this morning and I was pondering the ‘nut graf’ that I’d been introduced to the day before. It felt like another framing of Advent. Perhaps the whole sad and glorious story.
The Creator acts. The Creator creates. The Creator brings something out of nothing. Ultimately he animates life in his own image bearers: a creation of you and me(s) walking around, reflecting the character of the Creator.
The Garden of Eden, whether you take it literally or figuratively, is what it looks like when those who are carriers of the image of the Creator are in undiluted, unadulterated communion with their creator. It’s better than good. Pure love, no shame, no lies, and meaningful work tending creation. Perfect unity between the Creator and the created.
You’d think that the Creator would want to protect that perfection forever. The first image bearers (my Bible calls them Adam and Eve) should live forever, give glory to their Creator, and make lots of babies.
While the Creator surrounds Himself with a host of angels who instinctively bring him glory forever and ever, for man and woman, it’s more volitional.
There are options – bad options – and lured into the notion that they could be good, they take one bad option.
The bad option is the fall. That’s what we call it now. It’s a fall from The Creator’s glory, a fall from intimacy with each other and our Creator, and a fall from pretty much anything other than the possibility of grace.
For millennia, man goes to and fro from God. There are a bunch of ‘good ideas’ to help reconcile man with God and overcome the pesky sin problem that cripples us and is irreconcilable with God’s holiness.
There’s a law code that helps man recover some of our humanity by drawing closer to God and one another. It’s a really good idea.
There are strong kings and judges, priests and prophets who, at their best, are all doing all they can to point back to the Creator. Always a good idea.
But as good as all those ideas may have been, it still leaves a cavernous gap between the Creator and the created that can’t be traversed. Man could know about the Creator. Man could experience a taste of the mercy, goodness and faithfulness of the Creator. Man could even experience the miraculous and majestic awe of His character and see the Creator’s power manifest before them, but the relational intimacy and reconciliation was always a second or third-hand thing. And always fleeting.
That fleeting reconciling possibility was always in the hands of the super holy or those ordained for ‘super holy’ work. Their job was mediating between God and man.
All this couldn’t help giving the sense that if you worked harder, acted better, lived cleaner, looked proper, ‘out-righteoused’ the bloke beside you, you might just have a crack. That was a really bad idea because you couldn’t.
The Creator had a plan. Actually, he had a divine story that was crafted before any of this creation business got started.
The plan was both impossible and simple.
The plan was a Big Deal. The Biggest Deal.
If the plan worked—and it could only work through humble obedience and a willingness to lay aside the good for the best—it could reconcile the Creator with the created. In one fell swoop.
It could deal forever with the sin problem that plagued man since the Garden.
In that First Nativity, God squashed all of himself into a baby. His goodness, justice and mercy; his love, grace and forgiveness; his peace, joy and majesty—all his divinity, all his fullness—into one pathetic baby. Lying out the back—on the poor side of town in a bundle of hay.
The baby would live early years as a Palestinian refugee exiled to another land. He’d return again when the government of the day made his homeland safe enough for re-entry.
As far as big deals go, this one has some growing to do.
The child grew. He grew in wisdom and stature and favour with God and man. Jesus, the God-man. Emmanuel: God with us. The radiance of the glory of God. The Son mirroring the Father and stamped with God’s nature. No dilution.
When one of the good ideas of the time, John, spots this Jesus he says: “Here he is. Finally. The one who can forever deal with our sin problem.”
It’s long anticipated and scarcely fathomable but Jesus, as God’s only Son and only perfect sacrifice, has the capacity to accomplish what none can.
The capacity? Yes. The willingness? Absolutely.
The joy of bringing glory to His Father, the Creator, was above all other joys. Jesus endures a brutal, heinous death on a cross (the ultimate punishment of the day) to become a forever substitute for your sin and mine.
That’s where grace (perhaps the biggest new currency in this story), started to flow ferociously. Nothing could any longer stand in its way.
Through his sacrifice: a perfect like for like sacrifice that man could never conjure, Jesus does the heavy lifting that we couldn’t. Ever. By dying, he takes on our sin.
We’re not done yet. Having dealt with our sin problem, his body lies in a tomb. Three days. As you might say of a fish finger, ‘I’m pretty sure he’s dead now.’
In what happens next, the Creator deals with our other big problem: death. The Creator raises back to life the same perfect sacrifice who had dealt with the sin problem. Genius!
That’s the biggest deal. When it comes to sin and death, Jesus wins and has won. He’s crushed the losers.
To reduce Jesus to a teacher or a prophet or a doer of good stuff and a sayer of really good things is to reduce him back to a good idea. But this misses the glory of this whole shebang: He’s a big deal!
2000 years on, we’re celebrating the incarnation. When God put skin on. A baby in a manger and a man on a cross. Because it’s a good idea. And it’s the biggest deal.