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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December 6: The Tower of Babel & the Birth of Jesus

"Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built." - Genesis 11:4-5

The Tower of Babel and the Birth of Jesus:
Man Tries to Reach Heaven and is Scattered.
God Reaches Down from Heaven and Gathers.

What could the Tower of Babel possibly show us about Christmas? Well, I could make some goofy comment about how Christmas trees are shaped like the Tower of Babel and are thus evil, but I'd rather be more biblical and thoughtful. What were people trying to do when they gathered on a vast plain the land of Shinar and started building a large tower? Obviously, they were trying to build a tower with its top in the heavens, but why? Well, according to their own words, they were trying to steal God's glory and disobey God's commands.

These tower-builders wanted to make a name for themselves, to gain fame and honor and glory for their accomplishment, stealing glory from God. They also wanted to keep themselves from being scattered over the face of the earth. The problem with this second desire is that God had explicitly commanded people to fill the earth, and they were trying instead to concentrate in one place.

How impressive was their effort? Well, they were clearly impressed with themselves, since they though this tower would make them famous. Interestingly, God had to come down from heaven just to see the tower, so from His perspective, it must not have been that impressive or towering. 

Now consider what God did at Christmas and how it was the exact opposite of the Tower of Babel, both in its intent and its effect. At Christmas, God reached down from heaven to the world. God sent His Son to bridge the gap between heaven and earth because people could never reach heaven by their own efforts, whether those efforts were tower-building or law-keeping or good-works-doing or religion-inventing. Christmas tells us very clearly that of the distance between a holy God and sinful people is going to be bridged, God Himself must build the bridge. 

Not only was Christmas God reaching to earth, but Christmas was the birth of the first man whose whole life would be perfectly dedicated to bringing glory to God. Remember what the angels sang on that first Christmas night? "Glory to God in the highest!" Babel was an attempt by humanity to achieve self-glory; Christmas is God sending His Son to glorify His name. 

Finally, what was the effect of the Tower of Babel? God confused human language and people were scattered over the face of the earth. What has been the effect of Christmas? People from all over the world have been gathered to Jesus and brought into His kingdom. In being gathered to Jesus, all national, racial, ethnic and language differences fade away. The multitude around the throne in heaven praise God by singing, 

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

    and they shall reign on the earth.” - Revelation 5:9-10   

At Babel, men tried to make a name for themselves and resist the fulfillment of God's purposes. They failed and were scattered. At Christmas, Jesus came to bring glory to God and to fulfill His every promise and purpose. Jesus succeeded, and He is now gathering His people from every tribe under heaven. 

Heavenly Father, Thank for for the ways in which the gift of Your Son at Christmas reverses the curse of Babel. Make my mind like the mind of Jesus, focused on glorifying You and doing Your will. Use me to further the fame of Jesus' name and to fulfill Your purposes in the world. In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Enjoy this worship video featuring Chris Tomlin's song, "Glory in the Highest":

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