Christmas As The End Of The River

Creation out of nothing was an awesome event. Imagine what the angelic spirits must have felt when the universe, material reality of which they had never imagined, was brought forth out of nothing by the command of God.

The fall was an awful event, shaking the entire creation.

The exodus was an amazing display of God’s power and love.

The giving of the law, the wilderness provisions, the conquering of Canaan, the prosperity of the monarchy—all these acts of God in redemptive history were very great and wonderful. Each one was a very significant bend in the river of redemptive history, bringing it ever and ever closer to the ocean of God’s final kingdom.

But we trivialize Christmas, the incarnation, if we treat it as just another bend on the way to the end. It is the end of redemptive history.

And I think the analogy of the river helps us see how.

Picture the river as redemptive history flowing toward the ocean which is the final kingdom of God, full of glory and righteousness and peace. At the end of the river the ocean presses up into the river with its salt water. Therefore, at the mouth of the river there is a mingling of fresh water and salt water. One might say that the kingdom of God has pressed its way back up into the river of time a short way. It has surprised the travelers and taken them off guard. They can smell the salt water. They can taste the salt water. The sea gulls circle the deck. The end has come upon them.

Christmas is not another bend in the river. It is the arrival of the salt water of the kingdom of God which has backed up into the river of history. With the coming of Christmas, the ocean of the age to come has reached backward up the stream of history to welcome us, to wake us up to what is coming, to lure us on into the deep.

Christmas is not another bend in the river of history. It is the end of the river. Let down your dipper and taste of Jesus Christ, his birth and life and death and resurrection. Taste and see if the age to come has not arrived, if the kingdom has not come upon us. Does it not make your eyes sparkle?

John Piper on Christmas (1981), from The Gospel Coalition

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