Jesus: Begotten Not Created

In the first chapter of Mere Christianity, Lewis gets right to the crux of Christianity. “One of the creeds says that Christ is the Son of God ‘begotten, not created’; and it adds ‘begotten by his Father before all worlds’.” And, even though this sounds like a Christmas message, Lewis correctly points us to the before the beginning. Though the virgin birth of Jesus is the onset of a whole new revelation of God to his creation, “We are thinking about something that happened before Nature was created at all,” Lewis says, “before time began. ‘Before all worlds’ Christ is begotten, not created.”

Lewis explains begetting in the next turn, that it is of the same being with the Father, as the creed affirms. “When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself,” Lewis explains. “A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set—or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a statue. If he is a clever enough carver he may make a statue which is very like a man indeed. But, of course, it is not a real man; it only looks like one. It cannot breathe or think. It is not alive.”

And in this, we have the beauty of Christmas, the merry myth that marries all myth – as it is a foreshadow – to the Truth that is revealed that Christmas morning. “What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is. They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God.”

And so it is, that the giving God sings out his revelation through the very creatures that he is coming to save. So, the Christmas story is always and only about Jesus, the incarnate deity, as the hymn reminds us, but we are the shepherds, the wise men, the innkeepers, the townspeople… the ones either hovering around the hallelujahs or plugging up our ears. If we go and see, as the shepherds go and see, we will look into what the angels announce yet still long to find full meaning in (I Peter 1:12), that is the redemption brought down to earth. That makes the Christmas story very much about us, about our response to it.

“A statue has the shape of a man but is not alive,” Lewis says. “In the same way, man has… the ‘shape’ or likeness of God, but he has not got the kind of life God has.” We are made in God’s image but we are lacking the stuff that really brings us into life, that is without Jesus.  “And that is precisely what Christianity is about,” he says. “This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumour going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life.”

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