Monday, 18 December 2006

So This is Christmas... So What?

"And so this is Christmas,
And what have you done?
Another year over,
A new one just begun...
"...War is over, if you want it,
War is over, now..."

First verse and childrens' chorus from Happy Christmas (War is Over)
Words and music by John Lennon

“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4,5. NKJV)

Some of you may be old enough to remember those idealistic days of John and Yoko and “Give peace a chance." They seem so distant now... a part of our youth, viewed like a photograph shot through a hazy filter. How idealistic, how honourable a cause it was... world peace. And all we had to do is get enough people to want it badly enough. We were so sure we could do it. But all one has to do is look at intervening history to see that these thoughts were naive at best. Yes, the war in question of that day, Viet Nam, is over, but wars still rage around the globe. Whether it's the same "evil" Americans, now in Iraq, suicide bombers or various tribal or religious wars, civil and otherwise, in Africa, man's violence against man has not ceased. And, of course, it won’t. Why? Because, as the Bible says, man's heart is evil continually.

When our first ancestor deliberately disobeyed God, he invited sin into the human race, and every human being since has inherited what, in Christian jargon is known as a "sin nature”. What it means is that we, as human beings, do not have a natural propensity to do good, but to do what is wrong. We all do wrong things. We all know that we do wrong things. And we do them even knowing they are wrong. In other words, we know the things we do are wrong, but we do them anyway.

This tells us two things. First, we humans really have an innate sense of what IS right. We KNOW the difference between right and wrong. But our natural propensity is to do what is wrong anyway. For example, our natural tendency is to be selfish, even though we know it is better to be generous. Without being taught that it is wrong to steal, or without fear of punishment or the disapproval of others if we are caught, our natural tendency would be to take anything we wanted.

If someone angers us, our natural tendency is to strike out at them, either verbally or physically. If someone angers us enough, our primary urge is to use violence. Often the thing that stops us is either the fear of our adversary using violence back, or the realization that society has laws against such action, and we could suffer punishment if we assault someone. And, of course, we think it wrong for anyone to use violence against us. Our natural tendency is not only to excuse our urge to use violence against others who anger us as justifiable, but at the same time to justify our own behaviour at which others might feel the same urge toward us as reasonable: we had a good reason for behaving the way we did. In the end, although we might try to convince ourselves and others that we really are good people, deep down we know we are not.

People know there is a God. We have all been given enough evidence (Psalm 19, Romans 1) so that there is no excuse not to acknowledge the fact of His existence. But in our natural condition, we are intimidated by Him. So, although He invites us to seek Him, our natural inclination is to avoid Him (John 3:19) or even to deny that He exists. We are afraid of judgment. We realize that, the way we are, we will be condemned by such a Being.

Which brings me to the Scripture passage quoted above.

“…when the fullness of time had come…”

Jesus came into this world at a particular time in history. He was born exactly when he was supposed to be born; exactly when God had decided he would be born. Jesus was not a great man who just happened to be born when he was. His birth was no fluke of history. God is not the victim of coincidence, He is the author of all circumstance. To put it frivolously, “coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.”

“…God sent forth His Son …”

God indeed came Himself, in the person of His Son, to make a way possible for Mankind, even with his “sinful” heart, to be reconciled to Him.

“…born of a woman, born under the law…”

Jesus was not only fully God from eternity past, he was fully human, born in the flesh, with an obligation to keep the law. In fact, he is the only person who ever lived who kept God’s entire law faithfully, without exception. He is the only person never to have done anything wrong, even though he was tempted in every way we are.

“ …to redeem those who were under the law…”

On the cross, Jesus took upon himself, everything ever done wrong by anyone who puts their faith in him, and at the same time, placed on each of us who trust in him, in God’s eyes, his own righteousness.

“…that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

We no longer have to cower in fear in of judgment in God’s presence, but we can now stand confidently, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We can now know God personally and have the same relationship with Him of a loving father and his children. We can be adopted as His children through faith in Jesus Christ.

That is what we celebrate at Christmastime! What better gift could there possibly be?

Take Care

1 comment:

stauf46 said...

Hey, I get the honour of being the first to comment here!

I do like the name, even as a Baptist pastor. I'm glad you've chosen our church as your Edson church home.

I'm looking forward to your posts, but don't spend too much time at this :)