|Retreat center outside Brasilia, Brazil|
DAY 1 - JESUS IS THE PRE-EXISTENT GOD THE SON
One major difference between Christianity and the other major world religions is that, in Christianity, God came to us. In the other world religions we are left on our own to try to discover God (or achieve enlightenment, as in Buddhism).
Christmas is about God coming to us, in the form of his Son. This is called the "Incarnation." (Which means: "in flesh.") At Christmas God took on a human body.
We see this in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. It reads: In the beginning was the Word,and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1-2)
Who was "the Word?" We find out in John 1:14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Son of God, also referred to as God the Son, came to us from the Father and took on human flesh. This is the language of God as a Trinity of persons. God is a "triune" being: Father, Son, and Spirit.
God, as I've heard J.P. Moreland express it, is a three-personed being. J.P. asks us to imagine a 3-headed person: 3 heads, 3 distinct personalities, sharing the same body.
The idea of God as a Trinity makes conceptual sense of the idea that God is love. This is because love requires relationship. In the very being of God there is, and everlastingly has been, loving relationship. God, in his being, is relational. I love this way of thinking about God! It is so rich and wide and deep and long and high.
Early Christians came up with a word to express the 3-personed being of God: perichoresis. This word is made of a prefix, "peri," which means "around." Like the peri-meter of a circle. "Choresis" is the word we get "choral" from, which can mean to sing, but also to dance, as in a "chorus line." "Perichoresis" is to dance in a circle. With this word our 3-Personed God is described as Father, Son, and Spirit engaged in an everlasting circle dance. I like to refer to this as the Big Dance, into which we are invited (John 14,15, and 16).
God the Son who became flesh has existed everlastingly in the Big Dance that is the being of God. Then, in the infant Jesus, God became one of us.
To understand the the Real Jesus we must begin with the Incarnation of God the Son, in whom there is neither beginning nor end. Jesus is the pre-existent God the Son, who has existed everlastingly.
This view of God as Trinity has been called "social trinitarianism"; viz., that in the being of God there is a "society" of three persons. See here, for academic ideas on this. But not, of course, for Islam, which vehemently denies the Christian idea of God as a Trinity of 3 Persons. Islam misunderstands this, as Judeo-Christianity has never claimed there are three Gods.
I also love the book The Shack as a way of figuratively expressing Trinitarian theism - i.e., God as a 3-Personed Being.