Merry Parachoresis! A Christmas Reflection

This is a repost from a couple years ago. -JB

The Christmas story is all too familiar for most Christians today. We’ve seen two dozen pageants, have basically memorized Matthew and Luke’s accounts of wise men, shepherds, overbooked inns and barnyard manger scenes. The problem with familiarity, as Dallas Willard puts it, is that “Familiarity breeds unfamiliarity — unsuspected unfamiliarity, and then contempt” (The Divine Conspiracy, 11).

Thus, pastors often struggle preparing their annual Christmas message.  But as my recent post argued (See “And There Were Shepherds”), the Christmas story is filled with shock and mind-boggling surprises.  One has to work very hard to make this story ordinary and boring.  The story of Christmas is the most extraordinary story ever told.

This Christmas I shared a brief Christmas message at our high school Christmas dance — yes, my Baptist friends, our youth group had a dance to celebrate the birth of our savior.  This year my message centered around the image of “The Dance of the Trinity” and Christ’s relentless pursuit of more and more dancing partners to come back into a life of living in the harmonious rhythms of the Kingdom Dance.

My message outline went something like this:

Act 1: THE ETERNAL DANCE OF THE TRINITY. In the beginning, before the creation of the world, there existed the eternal dance of the Trinity. God was not all alone, bored and looking for something to do, and so created the world and human beings.  Quite the opposite. God has always existed as divine community of mutual love and self-giving.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have always enjoyed the perfect fullness of love, creativity, mutual giving and receiving.  The early church fathers called this “parachoresis.”

In the words of New Testament professor Scot McKnight, “Parachoresis is the theological term used to describe the mutual interpenetration and eternal indwelling of the persons of the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That is reality. If this is reality, then creation in Genesis 1 and 2 is the explosion of the parachoretic dance of God in this world to create beings to relate to God, and self and others in the world. The God of the Bible is a God of grace who has created these human “Eikons” (i.e., in the image of God) who are cracked, and He wants them to come home again.  He banished them from Eden so that they could come home again in Christ.”

Act 2: EXTENDING THE DANCE. Why then did God create human beings?  Not out of need of company or desire to have some lower beings to boss around.  Rather, since God is by essence an overflowing community of creativity and self-giving love, God couldn’t help but extend this “dance”, this fullness of relational joy and fellowship to others.  Thus, God created human and angelic beings to share in the parachoretic dance of the Trinity living in perfect relational harmony with God, self and others.

Act 3: TONE DEAF AND FOOT FLUMSY. Created to live in step with the divine rhythms of the Trinitarian God, human beings rebelled and began dancing to the beat of their own drummers.  The harmonious dance became a mosh pit and lives that were designed to make sweet music went out of tune and the rest has been just noise and dissonance — and a lot of stepping on each others’ toes.

Act 4: CHRISTMAS: JESUS WANTS TO DANCE. God gave us the prophets and poets, laws and civil codes, and yet throughout the period of the OT such attempts were unable to draw us back into the dance. How could God draw his wayward creatures back into the Dance of the Kingdom?  Christmas is the shocking fact that God decided to become one of us, taking on the form of a human being, the scandal of the incarnation, in order to bring us back into the Dance.  The divine equivalent to the saying, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Gal 4:4-5).

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

“[Christ], being in very natureGod, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very natureof a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! (Phil 2:6-8)

“Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matt 11:28 Message).

Challenge: The world today is still filled with the dissonance of people all dancing to their own rhythms and singing their own tunes. We still live in a Genesis 3 world filled with all the effects of sin — relational conflict, warring nations, broken families, inequality, oppression and the rest.  The Bible simply calls it “the darkness.”

Christmas reminds us each year that there is a light that shines in the darkness that the darkness does not understand and cannot overcome (John 1:5). “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (John 1:9).  That light lives among us 2,000 years later, still lighting our path, laying down the Kingdom beat and sounding forth the beautiful Kingdom rhythms. We are all faced with the same decision: Will we insist on dancing to our own beat?  Or will we accept Christ’s invitation our of our own sinful, destructive dance patterns and enter into the fullness of life in step with “parachoretic” rhythms of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent,nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:11-13).

So, echoing the words of the famous carol, “Joy to the world!  The Lord is come!  Let each of us receive our King!

Merry Parachoresis!

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