Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December's newsletter article: The reason for the season

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7

I can’t believe December is here again. I feel like it was just a second ago that Veronique and I were busily moving; and yet a year has come and gone, December is here, and the Christmas season has begun. Decorations are going up, plans are being made to visit friends and relatives, the children are practicing for their annual performance, which will be on the 19th, the ladies are baking up a storm for the cookie walk, and the advent wreath is going up. Soon, we will be gathering with friends and families, getting ourselves involved in that frantic race to finish our Christmas shopping, and going to Childrens Christmas pageants. Soon, we will be busily decoration our houses, and preparing for open houses.

I have found myself looking forward to the Christmas season with a sense of anticipation. Joseph is getting to the point where he can take part in placing a few things on the tree (a few), and he will love the bright lights, and the gifts under the tree (if he can leave them wrapped). I’m excited to get up, and have the fun of tearing those gifts open with him.

But in the middle of all the fun and business, my encouragement to you is, don’t lose sight of the reason for Christmas. As we get busy shopping, planning events, decorating, and doing the million other things that we do at Christmas, don’t lose sight of the reason for the season, the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.

This is where our focus should be, on the God man who came to reconcile the world to God. On the baby, who came in the midst of obscurity, and changed history forever. James Francis noted that “He was a man born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. While still a young man, the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. When he was dead He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today He is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that One Solitary Life”.

As we come to the Christmas season, don’t lose sight of the main event, keep your eyes fixed on Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, the one who came as a child, showed himself to be God as a man, went to the cross for you, and will return to rule the living and the dead.

In Christ,
Pastor Jonathan

Christmas musings

Christmas musings

Galatians 4:4-6: But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"

Philippians 2:6-7: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

This Christmas, I have found myself struck by several wonderful truths.

The first one that has struck me is the reminder that as Christians, we live as people whose lives are shaped by the reality of the past, and the hope of the future. Christianity is not just an antiquated set of rules to live by; instead, it is a source of hope, or joy. This world, with its problems, challenges, and hardships is not our home. We may live in this world, but this is not our final destination. As Paul wrote, “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21). Because of this, our lives should be lived with anticipation of Christ’s return, and as people who seek to glorify God joyfully.

The second truth that I have been struck by here at Christmas is that we live in light of a wonderful paradox. A paradox is an apparent contradiction which conceals a profound truth. The Bible is filled with paradoxes. We triumph by first surrendering to God. We see the unseen through faith. We find freedom in becoming Christ's servants. We can truly live only if we die to self. The greatest paradox in the entire Bible is found in the birth of Jesus Christ.

Over the years, this paradox has been explored and written on by some of the greatest minds in Christendom. Here at Christmas, let me share some with you. Augustine wrote that “He lies in a manger, but contains the world. He feeds at the breast, but also feeds the angels. He is wrapped in swaddling clothes, but vests us with immortality. He found no place in the inn, but makes for Himself a temple in the hearts of believers. In order that weakness might become strong, and strength became weak” C.H. Spurgeon wrote that He was “Infinite, and an infant— Supporting the universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother’s arms— king of angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph— heir of all things and yet the carpenter’s despised son. Sam Storms wrote “The Word became flesh! God became human! The invisible became visible! The untouchable became touchable! The transcendent one descended and drew near! The exalted was humbled! Glory was subjected to shame! From a throne to a cross! And just this month, the folks at igniter media wrote for a short video, “Though he left his throne he became our king. A king who came not to be served, but to serve. A king whose death would bring us life. A king whose single sacrifice would serve as the ransom for us all. It’s a wonderful paradox. It’s a paradox that brings hope, and ultimately, brings joy. Because of the incarnation, we find the reason for true joy.

This is the third truth that has struck me here at Christmas. Christ’s birth is a true reason for joy. We find many things that give us happiness in life. But here at Christmas, we see the true reason for joy. The king has come, He has opened our prison door, and offered us life as citizens of his kingdom. He has come, and as my favorite preacher, John Piper wrote, “blew the lock off the prison of death and gloom and returned to the gladness of God. With that He put His sanction on the pursuit of happiness. And He opened the way for sinners to find never-ending satisfaction at the fountain of the glory of His grace.” (Piper, The Gladness of the Risen God) Here at Christmas, rejoice. The king has come, and now, your citizenship is in heaven. If you are in Christ, you are adopted as Gods children. So here at Christmas, as children with full inheritance rights, as people who can cry “Abba father”. Rejoice!

In Christ,
Pastor Jonathan