December 14, 2022 (The fourth day of the third week of Advent 2022)
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“John replied, ‘A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, I am not the Christ, but am sent ahead of Him. The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom stands and listens for him, and is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase; I must decrease.’” (John 3.27-30)
The God who dwells within us makes us His people!
The God who dwells within us reveals Himself in Word and Action!
The God who dwells within us will not forsake His Word of Promise!
The truth of the gospel rendering comes in its consequence in our lives: by faith in it, we are BORN again in spirit and in truth. How does this happen? The apostle Paul explained it to the mighty ones in Rome and wherever his letter to them was read, “But, God demonstrates His own love for us in this way: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” In this season of Advent, we hear so often “Jesus is the reason for the season.” And we understand the saying reminds us that all of our celebration, gladness and great joy should be focused on the great gift of Jesus which God has given to us just as the angels had declared God had given Him to the shepherds. John’s call to this focus came in his words to the Jewish leaders sent to confront him about his own gospel, good news, message. They asked him, “Are YOU the long-expected one?” He responded with, “The tragedy of your thinking is this: I have told you that I am not the Christ of God. He is here among you but you refuse to see Him for yourselves. Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” He did not say, “Behold, the Sheep of God!” The prophet Isaiah, whom John the Baptizer quoted in depth, declared, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling will be found together in peace and a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11.6) We must consider all of this and understand that before we can receive the “Man of God,” we must accept “a baby born in Bethlehem wrapped in swaddling cloths asleep in the fresh hay which filled a manger as his bed.” All of that speaks as a prophetic reminder that this season of celebration is a call to “see Jesus” and “see ourselves” in joyous harmony and union. So, as we are wont to say “Jesus is the reason for the season,” Father and Son and Holy Spirit might see and say it this way: YOU ARE THE REASON FOR THIS SEASON.
You “see,” the message of John the Baptizer, the Angels in Glorious Proclamation, the Shepherds from the field and the Prophets of Old all point to the truth that Jesus was born to us and for us. And while Paul spoke specifically to the vital truth of the consequence of the gospel rendering with “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” we have to imagine that the beginning of it all could as easily be rendered as “While we were yet sinners, Christ was born for us and to us.” Indeed, a little child who would become a mighty man of God was born to lead us through our valleys of the shadow of death directly to the very steps which rise up to the House of God. There Jesus as the Christ is preparing a place for all who would believe in Him and seek Him as those who are wise enough to confess their sinfulness and profess their vital need for the grace of God which comes from Jesus the Christ. It took a while for the disciples to grasp the “joy” of their salvation because it came with the price of the death of “the lamb of God who came into the world to take away the sting of death.” Have you ever wondered, I know I have, why we do not sing “Ode to Joy” (or its modern variants) at Easter as much as we do at Christmas. Shouldn’t we be as joyful about Jesus’ death, even His death on a cross while we were yet sinners, as we are about His birth as a baby in Bethlehem? Every great story has a beginning. It didn’t just happen. And our joy cannot be complete unless we embrace its beginning especially when it comes to the story of our salvation. The joy we feel at Christmas is about family and friends and those glad reunions, yes. But, isn’t the joy we OUGHT to feel rooted in the very heart of God for His people, the sheep [and lambs] of His pasture? “For God so loved us that He gave US His only begotten Son.” Our redemption, our “being born again” by faith in Christ is the consequence of the gospel rendered into our world. In Christ, we become first babes and children of Bethlehem. Thatmust happen before we become adolescents of Nazareth and adults of Jerusalem. All of that leads to the conclusion of being joint heirs of the Kingdom and brought in fullness to the House of the One True and Living God! Christmas for the mighty ones of God, I suggest for your consideration, is the season of God’s reasoning to “save those who are lost, providing wellness for the spiritually sick and redeeming His children from the valleys of Gehenna where Satan would rather keep us all to himself.” It is the season of joy where all things are made new like a baby born in the innocence of love and faithfulness as well as in the innocence of ignorance and violence to walk again before God and with God in the truth of Immanuel. Christmas is about the promise God made to Eve and Adam fulfilled in His promise between Mary and Himself for our benefit. What greater joy can there be than this: that while we were yet sinners Christ was born, lived, loved and died for us and because of His faithfulness to God His Father was raised from the valley of the shadow of death on the third day in glorious appearance that we might live with Him forever. All we have to do is to accept this great gift from God, own it in our hearts and share it with equal joy to all the world telling prophetically, boldly and joyfully of “this thing which has happened to US who is Christ our Lord, Immanuel!”
Father, Your promise is true and secured and made alive in us. We offer ourselves as gifts of faith, hope, love and true joy to all the world that they might know Your promise is for them, too. Jesus was born for this that all who will believe shall live. What a glorious day it is when we remember this truth as the reason for this season. AMEN.