As I grow older, I look forward to Christmas more as a time of reflection rather than celebration. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3: 16). Apparently, Jesus was born because “God so loved the world…” “Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her king. Let heaven and nature sing…” (Isaac Watts). Let heaven and nature sing with joy—the Lord has come. This classic Christmas song suggests that God’s kingdom is not limited to humanity but includes the whole of nature as well as heaven.
Perhaps Christ was born, preached the gospel, and died as an expression of God’s love of the world. Maybe humanity was given an opportunity to “not perish, but have everlasting life” to express God’s everlasting love for the world. Our individual, physical lives on earth are not everlasting, even Jesus died. But humanity as a whole could survive on earth for as long there is an earth. Perhaps we were given dominion over the earth, not to control, plunder, and pollute it but to express God’s love for it.
The earth was created by God—or whatever name one might choose for the ultimate source of all reality or existence. We can argue about the means by which the world came into being—how long it took and how it has evolved. But it exists, so obviously it was created. It apparently was created for a purpose. If there were no purpose for the earth, there would be no purpose for human life on earth. There would be no means of distinguishing right from wrong or good from bad in our intentions or actions. Our life or death simply wouldn’t matter.
I know a lot of people don’t believe in God and some who do don’t believe there is any purpose for their individual lives or for the world. However, I believe the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, provides compelling evidence that God created the earth for a purpose. For example, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1: 31). If there were no purpose for the earth, there would be no criteria by which to judge whether it was good or bad. I also believe God created humanity as a means of expressing His or Her love for the earth.
The song, “Joy to the World” apparently was inspired by a verse in Psalms 96: “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it” (Psalms 96: 11). From the book of Isaiah: “Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth; Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it” (Isaiah 44:23). Those texts reflect a world made up of beings, subjects rather than simply objects—beings capable of appreciating and returning God’s love through expressions of joy. I believe God created these other beings for a purpose.
Civilizations throughout history have honored and respected the other living and non-living things of the earth as fellow subjects of God’s kingdom. From time to time, however, humanity has strayed from its responsibility as caretakers of God’s creation. During these times, God has given us an opportunity to repent—to abandon our quest to become conquerors rather than caretakers of the earth. I believe we are currently living through another of those times. We were created to love and care for the earth as well as each other. Let’s hope it doesn’t take a “second coming” of Christ (John 14: 1-3) to remind humanity of its responsibilities as caretakers of God’s earthly kingdom.