Our Spiritual Nativity
“Your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan…”
Our word “nativity” has roots which linger back many centuries into the history of our language. We may trace it back in time to the Old French nativité, meaning “birth” or to the Latin “nativus,” meaning “born.” “Nativity,” according to standard and modern usage, refers to the process, place or circumstances of a birth. It is then, first, a biographical term. Thus our Southern friends from the Volunteer State sing accurately, and with forgivable partiality, “Oh, Tennessee, my Tennessee, thy hills and vales are fair to see…the land of my nativity.” In due time, however, the word ‘nativity’ came to signify more specifically the birth of Jesus Christ. When so used we typically capitalize the word Nativity to indicate this sacred and special use. Once a year in late December Christians commemorate this Holy birth with Nativity sermons, Nativity scenes and Nativity songs. And well we should.
There is, however, another important nativity that we as Christians sometimes tragically forget. The nativity to which I refer is our own spiritual nativity. Not our personal Christian heritage or tradition, but rather the true spiritual origins of our relationship with God Himself. What were our “beginnings” with respect to our fellowship with the One True and Living God? It is this nativity to which the Lord refers, when speaking to His people through Ezekiel the prophet, saying “your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan.” God reminds them, as it were, of the spiritual sewer from whence they came. Jerusalem, and by extension her inhabitants, had a shameful and sordid past. “Thou hast” writes Matthew Henry upon this text “from the very first, the spirit and disposition of a Canaanite.” Ezekiel was to expose their “abominations” by unveiling Jerusalem’s ancestry: “Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite (Ezekiel 16:3).” The city of David had once been a culture of death. If the old mountains and ancient trees around Jerusalem could talk, they would, like Able’s ground, cry out of guilt and blood.
This, we must see, is the ‘beginning’ or ‘nativity’ of every Christian. Every spiritual child of Abraham must remember that “your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan.” No matter how many generations of faith we might trace, here is our nativity: you “were dead in trespasses and sins…and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others (Ephesians 2:1, 3).” Our spiritual ‘Bethlehem’ is the City of Destruction. The wax tablet of our nature enters this world notched and etched with sin already. We are all born spiritually upside down, in un-uprightness, if you will. The pedigree of our hearts is full-blooded ‘heathen’. Interestingly, early usage of the word “nativity” signified especially one who was born a slave. That is precisely the way Scripture describes us: slaves of sin. Thus coming into the world undone, we were also entirely unable to help ourselves. Paul describes this aspect of our spiritual nativity with these words “when we were still without strength (Romans 5:6).” Finally, we not only came into this world unable, but we were un-pitied as well. “No eye pitied you (Ezekiel 16:5)” said the prophet.
How then shall we apply this principle of our Spiritual Nativity?
First, remember it is only against the ghastly backdrop of our nativity that The Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ truly stands out. This is the contrast that moves this Season from sentimental to simply staggering. He came for me?! Really? The wonder of Christmas is not only that God became man, but that God became man for me! Our nativity points to our depravity. Christ’s Nativity points to His humility.
Second, this consideration of our own spiritual nativity ought to change the way we think of ourselves. Remember, Christian, where you came from. “But we are all like an unclean thing (Isaiah 64:6).” Paul warns each one “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think (Romans 12:3).” We entered this world with Canaanite blood streaming through our spiritual veins. Put away that foolish pride! We have nothing of which to boast.
Third, our spiritual nativity reminds us that God can produce Christians out of Canaan. With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. This is what He did for Jerusalem. “When I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, Live!...and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful (Ezekiel 6:6-7).” Reader, wherever you are right now…God can save you. You may think yourself the worst of sinners, but He stands ready to redeem you. He will wash away your sins and bestow upon you the splendor of His grace in Jesus Christ. He did so for His people in Jerusalem: “My splendor which I had bestowed on you (Ezekiel 6:14).” He will do so for you. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.
Finally, my beloved friend, beware of turning back from this grace that has been given you. The ungrateful inhabitants of Jerusalem turned back, and Ezekiel had to come to them with “Woe, woe to you! (Ezekiel 16:23)” Peter’s warning is both severe and necessary “For if they, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning (2 Peter 2:20).” Remember your Spiritual Nativity…and don’t go back!