Let Us Live Cheerfully, for the Second Adam has Come!
In Italy, as in America, the annual season of Christmas (Natale in Italian) is a time of festivity and liveliness. Streets are decorated, shoppers fill the stores, and enormous Christmas trees are erected in public squares. Despite the commercialism, craziness and comedown, people still manage to enjoy important family traditions. Parties are attended, food is prepared, and pleasure is taken in watching the anticipation build in the hearts of little ones.
For the Christian, though, there is far more to Christmas than the materialism we chide and the memories we cherish. Christmas is a celebration of the greatest drama ever staged: the arrival of the Son of God to accomplish redemption on our behalf. We see in the lights a symbol of Christ, who came as the Light of the world. We sing hymns and carols commemorating the Incarnation, apart from which we would have no hope. We exchange gifts in response to God's great gift of righteousness, earned for us by Christ.
It is this message in particular - the gift of Christ as the Second Adam and his righteousness imputed to believing sinners - that the Italian Reformer Benedetto Fontanini (also known as Benedetto da Mantova) emphasized in his influential book The Benefit of Christ (Il Beneficio di Cristo). Writing anonymously in 1543, only one year after the violent Roman Inquisition began, Fontanini drew upon "federal theology," that is, the comparison of the two Adams, to show us the true source of a life of joy. Explaining how our whole salvation depends on the finished work of Christ, Fontanini said,
"As Jesus Christ is stronger than Adam, so His righteousness was mightier than the sin of Adam. The sin of Adam was sufficient to make us all sinners and children of wrath without any misdeed of our own; how much more shall Christ's righteousness be a greater force to make us all righteous and the children of grace without any of our own good works."
Christ, as the promised Seed and second Adam, obtained that to which the first Adam failed: he obeyed God perfectly and merited for us eternal life in glory. He is the Champion promised to our first parents when they were exiled from the holy garden. He is the One of whom all the Scriptures ultimately testify.
"He is the blessed Seed that has crushed the head of the venomous serpent, the devil. Thus all those who believe in Jesus Christ can trust His grace to overcome sin, death, and the devil and hell. He is the blessed Seed of Abraham in Whom God has promised blessing to all nations."
Christ and his finished work is the reason we can rejoice and live with cheer - not only at Christmas, but throughout the year and throughout our lives.
"My dear brethren, let us embrace the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us make His righteousness ours by faith. Let us be assured that we are righteous, not because of our own works, but because of the merits of Jesus Christ. Let us live cheerfully, assured that the righteousness of Jesus Christ has utterly done away with all our unrighteousness. He has made us good, righteous, and holy before God. Beholding us engrafted in His Son by faith, He considers that we are no longer the children of Adam. He considers us His own children. He has also made us heirs of all His riches, joint-heirs with His Son."
This Christmas, let us rejoice that the Son of God invaded human history and came into this world to save us from sin, death, and hell. Let us remember that Christ did for us that which we cannot do for ourselves. He earned righteousness for us and made us acceptable to God! May God cause that glorious message to be announced more and more throughout Italy, throughout America, and throughout the world. And may we live cheerfully as a result.