When I was first introduced to fossils, I don’t remember. I do remember standing next to Dad and “Uncle” Henrik listening to a discussion of alluvial plains as they looked across the Coaba Farm valley at the fan shaped plains that formed at the base of each wash. Uncle Henrik was explaining how those plains were formed by the receding waters of a world wide deluge like the one in the days of Noah. It was somewhere around Coaba Farm some years later that I found my first fossils.
The memories from 1968 are not always trustworthy, but I’m figuring it had to be April of that year. I seem to remember we were on an outing during our missionary annual conference to show my Grandma Andrews the area around Coaba, and that’s why it had to be then. That was the year Grandma A visited us in Bolivia. We walked along the top of a shale outcropping to get a view of the valley below. Finding the fish vertebrae required good eyes as we knelt in the loose shale and sifted it through our hands.
It’s not completely clear from the Biblical record how it is that the Andes Mountains at 9000 to 12,000 feet above sea level are replete with fossils of ocean creatures. Whether it was because they were covered in Noah’s flood or they were once ocean floor uplifted in a cataclysmic movement of the earth’s tectonic plates possibly brought about by the earth’s releasing its waters from below also part of Noah’s flood is a matter of debate. What is known is that the fossils, both my first ⅛ inch in diameter fish vertebrae and Dad’s two to three inch trilobites, were the exact imprint of aquatic creatures of a time long ago.
There is another exact imprint, one that is of infinitely greater import, that is the core of our celebration in what we call the Christmas season. A few hundred years ago the word used for a Christian religious service was “mass,” so the service that was held to celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ came to be known as Christmas. I prefer to use the Latin “Navidad” and thus the Celebration of the Nativity. And this is what we celebrate in the Nativity: in these last days [God] has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.
Because God loves us, He sent His Son, the exact imprint of His nature, so that His son could take on Himself the punishment for our sin. By doing so He has made it possible for us to have eternal life instead of the eternal death we deserve. This is what we celebrate when we celebrate His birth, when we celebrate Christmas.