Christmas and God’s Imagination
If we look deeper this season we can see the invaluable gift of Christmas and God’s imagination. Beyond self-help books, good wine or good coffee, we need something profound, deep and rich to continually inspire us. Beyond the mistletoe and Hallmark movies, God’s imagination possesses power to drive your art, your creative process and your career to new heights.
Imagination is mysterious. We cannot observe it in a test tube. We cannot measure it in inches, or liters. Yet it is essential for a life of meaning, hope and joy. This is what our neighbors are longing for. It is what our country is longing for and it is what our hearts desperately need.
The very gospel is founded upon the idea that Christ has promised more than what we are experiencing now. Yet, we need eyes to see beyond our present situation. I am not minimizing what Christ has done in my life or yours up to this point, but this, right now, is not, “as good as it gets.”
Scripture beckons us to imagine not only what God has created from the beginning, but also what God has in store for us in the New Jerusalem. We are invited to imagine heaven. That takes faith, and hope. And that requires imagination.
“…faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
“They were longing for a better country (speaking of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Rahab and many others)—a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
Our imagination is what fuels our ability to enjoy this life and to imagine the next. We are called to savor one and yearn for the other. All of our work should be designed to either contribute to the beauty and health of this world, or to create a yearning for a better world. . . that better world is the New Jerusalem.
This is the way to offer hope to a culture drowning in divisive politics, self-righteous propaganda, and digitally enhanced isolation. The world is lapping up tainted water from the fountain of mainstream media and art. They are looking for something to connect their imagination to their heart and to their soul.
Imagination of the Self
The imagination of the world is focused on the self, which leads to vanity and dreams that elevate the self. This is what the Bible calls ‘vain imaginations.’ These are the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar, Jezebel and other leaders who were only inspired to elevate themselves. These dreams lead to depression and darkness. God offers us the opposite – the imagination of God.
Imagination in the Beginning
To consider God’s imagination, we need to start at the beginning. In the beginning God imagined a grand plan. When there was nothing, God imagined a world, a universe, and a people with whom he could call his own. A people who loved him and to whom he was committed to love. In the garden of Eden, he created a world of beauty, splendor and majesty. He didn’t offer this to Adam and Eve as a complete project. God presented his creation in a state that would inspire Adam and Eve, and then invited them to be a part of this process. This is God’s gift – he inspires us and invites us into the journey.
God’s Invitation in the Beginning
God invited Adam and Eve to name the animals, to tend to all the trees, the fruit, the vegetables and the animals. In time, we learned to use these raw materials to breed other animals and create hybrid plants, trees, and flowers. It is through the work of men and women that we take the raw materials and create wine, bread, pizza and all sorts of delicious foods. Even when we celebrate the Lord’s Table (Eucharist) it requires us to use our gifts to make the bread and the wine.
Just as God brought order out of chaos during creation, He commanded this man and this woman, made in His image, to continue the work of bringing order out of chaos. We were meant to develop culture and to build healthy communities through our endeavors. To use our imagination to dream of a better way – inspired by God’s love for us. That was just the beginning – only a whisper of what God had in store.
God’s Invitation in the Wilderness
Centuries later, it was in the wilderness that God came to spark their imagination once again. Here was the place where God would come down to them and crystallize their relationship in a deeper way. He gave them the 10 commandments and called them to love and honor one another, instead of murdering, lying and cheating on each other. These laws have become the foundation of great civilizations.
But how would God communicate to these people what he is like? Laws were not enough. So God chose an artist to spark the imagination of the Israelites. This artist was the first person in the bible to be filled with the Holy Spirit and his name was Bezalel. God inspired Bezalel in order to create extravagant priestly robes with jewels and golden thread. He inspired Bezalel to create the ark of the Covenant, covered in gold, with angels wings hovering over the ark. The tabernacle was a place which was alive to our senses – the incense, the anointing oil, the lamp stands and all the beauty present where God’s people came to worship. God wanted them to be inspired when they came to worship. This was a place to inspire their imagination.
God’s Invitation to Imagine the Future
And this is where he sparked their imagination with a promise of a promised land – a land flowing with milk and honey. God came down from heaven, and he told the Israelites to call him “Immanuel”. Which in Hebrew means God with us! He is not far off. He is here. And God’s spirit was present as a pillar of fire that would hover over the tabernacle at night and a pillar of smoke during the day. God was promising a brighter future and giving a sample of that beauty each time we went to worship. The Israelites got a foretaste of the grandeur and splendor of the land God had promised them.
God’s Growing Love for Us
God wanted more than to provide us a beautiful city. He wanted more than to provide us with a beautiful place to worship Him. God wanted to remove all our sins. Forever. Why? So that he could have fellowship and communion with you! That is why He sent his son.
The story of Christmas points us to the moment in time that changed the world. In a dark time, under a paranoid ruler like Herod, God spoke hope and joy to the world. He came again to spark the imagination of his people, and to point us to the greater story. He chose Mary to be the mother and Joseph to be the father. He sent angels to herald the message. Wise men came with beautiful and extravagant gifts- a sign of the extravagant nature of this King of kings.
And this time, more than the law. More than a tabernacle, He sent his son.
God wasn’t content to create a garden for us to dwell in.
God wasn’t content to be Immanuel in our midst.
God longed to send his very spirit to live in our hearts.
Imagination in the Tension
And now, we live in this tension. We know that Christ has come. We know he has come to give us joy and life. And yet, there is still evil in the world. There are still things great and small that annoy and aggravate us. From traffic jams to viruses. From fights with our spouse to a crisis in our business. What are we to do?
Imagination and the New Jerusalem
Jesus came to defeat sin and death, but he is not done. He promises he will come again… and we will one day live in the New Jerusalem. We will be walking in a promised land not only filled with milk and honey, but streets paved with gold. No longer will we struggle with our own sin, or the sin of our neighbors. No longer will we worry or have anxiety. No longer will our loved ones struggle with depression, mental disorders and disease. No longer will we worry about how our children will turn out, or how our parents will be taken care of.
Christ came to make all things new, but He isn’t done yet.
He isn’t done with your heart.
He isn’t done with my heart.
He isn’t done with our marriages, our churches or our countries.
So what are we to do? If we have the ears to hear this Christmas. If we have the eyes to see this Christmas, we must let God inspire our imagination once again to dream of Heaven.
We must learn to hold onto his promises and follow His word. To place before our heart and mind the promises of God that he will never leave us nor forsake us, and that even the grave cannot stop his love for us.
As amazing as life is today in this age when we can fly around the world, eat food by amazing chefs, buy our Christmas gifts online and know exactly when they will be delivered – tracking the UPS or Amazon delivery person on our phones.
Even with all this, we have barely begun to taste and see how great life will be in the New Jerusalem. Imagine all these blessings, but to top it off, we have no more sorrow, no more tears, no more disease, and we can worship our God, sitting in his presence, basking in His goodness, his beauty and his glory. Our hearts will be filled with joy that never ends. This is the story of which Christmas plays a pivotal point.
At Christmas, we celebrate the God:
– who inspired Adam and Eve in the Garden
– who inspired Bezalel and the Israelites in the wilderness
– who sent his son to redeem the world
– who inspires us today with the promises of Heaven
Imagination and Revelation
Read these words from scripture and let it spark your imagination. Consider all that God has in store for us.
From Revelation 21 & 22:
“And an angel carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal… The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, and so on… 22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
Imagination, Worship and Creativity
Now it is your turn and mine to respond in worship. I don’t mean merely singing songs in church, but our entire lives. How can we live a life infused with hope from imagining what God has in store for us? As we accept the love God has for us, we are compelled to love the widow, the orphan and the stranger. We are also compelled to create art that honors God, and to live a life that honors God. In fact, when we behold God’s glory fully, there is no other possibility but to honor him with all our heart, our mind, our strength, and all of our art.
Copyright © 2020 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.