A Mind-Staggering Event To Crush Fear

Fifty-three years on “A Charlie Brown Christmas” continues to be popular amongst a world plagued with social media and mountains of munchable content. When something maintains such a nostalgic repertoire in a crowded and noisy world it demonstrates meaningful substance.

At Christmas we are drawn towards things of nostalgia and worth. The Charlie Brown Christmas special definitely fits into this category. In the special there is one particular clip that has always struck me, Charlie Brown exclaims “isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”. Following this, Linus takes to the stage under the spotlight tightly holding his security blanket. He begins to speak the words of Luke 2:8-14. “Fear not” (v.10) Linus declares.

In this moment, Linus acknowledges the “good news of great joy” (v.10) that “in the city of David a Saviour” (v.11) is born. He loosens his grip on his security blanket, allowing it to drift away onto the wooden floor. This climatic scene is certainly intentional from Charles Schulz. The reality of the Incarnation and the birth of Christ distances us from our fears. The sinful patterns that we continually lay in bondage to, Christ breaks. The Word becoming flesh means we can drop the false idols we cling to in our lives, clinging and trusting to all Christ has done.

The Incarnation complicates what we think of as a joyful, simple time of year. The Incarnation was the point in history, where the King of all kings, took on himself human nature. For the Christian, to deny the virgin birth would lead logically to denying the bodily resurrection of Christ too. As much as we might not understand all the intricacies and particulars of the Incarnation, we have to continue to uphold its occurrence. This mind-staggering event in the historical narrative of mankind means we no longer need to fear for two reasons – the Christ child would be our righteous representative and a submitting substitute on our behalf.

The Righteous Representative: In the storyline of the Bible, the beginnings of bliss and communing with God in the Garden of Eden was ended by Adam and Eve’s disobedience towards their Creator (Gen. 3). They were humanity’s first representatives. Through Adam’s disobedience we are all guilty; Paul affirms this numerous times in the New Testament in case we thought we got off scot-free. The truth is we deserve punishment for turning our backs on God but Christmas is not a time we want to think about having offended God. Surely we deserve something for participating in the beauty and innocence of the festive season? Although we plea, although we claim decency, we have all fallen short of God’s glory – turning to love created things rather than the Creator (Rom. 3:23; 1:20-25).

Where do we stand then? We stand as sinners. Unable to live up to God’s law; we commit to good and do as much as we can. A valley of fear and anxiety engulfs us as we can never attain perfect obedience unto the Father. But there is good news due to the entrance of Christ into space and time.

Where Adam failed, Christ obeyed. He did not surrender to temptation, he did not sway, he rooted himself in the truth of God’s Word. Christ has obeyed for us, he has become our righteous representative (to those who believe). Adam our ancestor of old failed, but Christ came fully satisfying and fulfilling the law we could have never (Gal. 4:4-5). Christ’s example resulted in justification and life for all men. Through the disobedience of one man the cosmos crumbled, so by the righteous Prince of Peace, corrupted and crushed hearts would be renewed (Rom. 5:18-19). Fear can no longer grip our hearts knowing Christ has perfectly obeyed for us, however, an exchange still had to be made.

The Submitting Substitute: Christ submitted to the Father’s will. From the crib, to the garden, to the cross. Christ committed himself to his Father. But, did he really have to be a man to pay the price for our sin? Surely God could work out some cosmic calculation to ease the punishment that would come upon Christ’s shoulders. Yet, there would be no point in me writing unless Christ was a man who died in our place to take away the penalty and power of sin that was due to us.

The author of Hebrews writes “For surely it is not the angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sin of the people” (2:16-17). Jesus is the ‘merciful and faithful high priest’ who has made provision for our sin. He had to be made like a man, not an angel, to be the propitiation to save men. From eternity past, Christ was the only acceptable substitute. Unless Christ was fully man he could have not paid the price for our sinful selves. We would be left to our own folly and chaos, but this baby would become the mediator: “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

Christ was the only acceptable sacrifice, the baby we acknowledge and celebrate at Christmas would one day make an agonising journey to the cross. He humbled himself above all else to the point of death on that wooden cross (Phil. 2:8). Why? So we might become children of God. Taking the sins of the world on himself, Christ the righteous representative took our sin and reconciled us back to God. Our sinful selves engrossed our minds and hearts with a fear of death, but because of the Incarnation we can proclaim “fear not!” like Linus. Christ has secured eternity for us through his once and for all sacrifice.

If there is anything we need to remember this Christmas its the Incarnation: “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14)-  “It was the supreme, mind-staggering miracle; love prompted it; and our part is not to speculate about it and scale it down, but to wonder and adore and love and exalt Jesus” – J. I. Packer.

Who is Jesus?

Isaiah 9:1-7

“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

The people who walked in darkness    have seen a great light;those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,    on them has light shone.You have multiplied the nation;    you have increased its joy;they rejoice before you    as with joy at the harvest,    as they are glad when they divide the spoil.For the yoke of his burden,    and the staff for his shoulder,    the rod of his oppressor,    you have broken as on the day of Midian.For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult    and every garment rolled in blood    will be burned as fuel for the fire.For to us a child is born,    to us a son is given;and the government shall be upon his shoulder,    and his name shall be calledWonderful Counselor, Mighty God,    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Of the increase of his government and of peace    there will be no end,on the throne of David and over his kingdom,    to establish it and to uphold itwith justice and with righteousness    from this time forth and forevermore.The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

This birth announcement arrives over 700 years in advance, announcing the good news of Jesus Christ. It tells us who He is…

Wonderful Counselor

These words describe the character of Jesus. The word “wonderful” means “incomprehensible.” In other words, He will cause us to be “in constant wonder and awe.” We see this throughout His life…born of the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:18), supernatural ability to heal, impactful teachings, a sinless life (Rom. 8:3-4), and the power to be raised from the dead (Mark 16). He counseled us to live counter-intuitively to the wisdom of this world…rejoice in suffering and persecution (Rom. 5:3-5), receive a blessing for being poor in spirit (Matt. 5:3), serve rather than be served (Matt. 20:28), and much, much more.

As our counselor, He knows us better than we know ourselves (John 2:25). His ways are always perfect (Ps. 18:30). He attains all knowledge and wisdom, including the nature and character of mankind (Psalm 139:1-2). He understands what we are going through and is available to listen at all times (Psalm 121:2-4). Jesus always has our best interests at heart (Psalm 36:7).

Mighty God

God’s power is unlimited (Job 36:2-4); He can do whatever He wants whenever He wants (Ps. 115:3). He knows no bounds (Job 11:8-18). He is the creator of all things (Neh. 9:6), the King of heaven (Ps. 95:3), the God of all mankind (1 Cor. 11:3). He is the only God (Is. 45:5-12). He is eternal (Gen. 21:33) and everlasting (Hab. 1:12), the Alpha and Omega (Rev. 21:6). He has been and always will be. He is able to do greater things than we can ask or fathom (Eph. 3:20). No one can keep track of all His miracles (Job 9:10). He answers to no one because no one is as Mighty as He (Ps. 50:9-10).

Everlasting Father

The Messiah is the father of time, and His fatherhood will never end (Rev. 1:8). The baby Jesus would be crowned King, the protector and provider of the children of God. He is not limited by age or death. As a father, his love is unconditional (Eph. 2:4-5). As children of God, our identity is secure in Him (John 10:30,38). Nothing can separate us from His love (Rom. 8:35-39). He is the perfect father.

Prince of Peace

Jesus is our Peace. We live in a crazy, chaotic, broken world with messy people every day. This is the world we know now. It is our normal until we encounter Jesus. He gives us peace in the midst of the chaos; revealing we are deeply loved (Eph. 1:16-18), redeeming us from sin (Rom. 5:8, 10), and releasing us to live freely in Him (Phil. 4:6-7).

What name of Jesus speaks most to you today and why?

 

The Son of God?

The Son of God?

As Christians we always talk about Jesus being the “Son of God” but I don’t think that we do a good job of helping others understand what this means, in fact, I have known many Christians who struggle to articulate the truth that Jesus is the “Son of God”.  For this reason, I want to take a moment and clarify this concept in order to add a layer of depth to our faith.  I will do so very quickly so as not to complicate an already difficult topic.

The short and sweet of it is this:  The phrase “Son of God” or “God’s One and Only Son” is not referring to Jesus being a child of God as a result of his sexual interaction with a spiritual female in heaven.  It is important to know that our Mormon friends believe this to be case, which is different from Evangelical Christianity and its belief that Jesus Christ is completely equal with the Father and that they have always existed together as One.  Jesus may have (certainly was) been born on earth from a human woman, but he was never born in heaven–He just was.  The truth is that it means Jesus is the perfect mirror reflection of God the Father.  When we see Jesus we see God the Father and we see the Holy Spirit.  This is the relationship that is described.  The verse that does the best job in clarifying the topic is this:

Hebrews 1:3 “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

When you read the Gospel of John it becomes very evident that the Jews, who stated that they believed in God the Father, truly did not believe in the One true God because they did not believe that Jesus was equal with Him.  When they saw Jesus they did not see God; they saw only a man (The Son of Man).  But those who believe in the One true God see the Father when they see Jesus.

We see the conflict in John 10:31-33, which reads:

Again the Jews picked up rocks to stone Him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. Which of these works are you stoning Me for?” “We aren’t stoning You for a good work,” the Jews answered, “but for blasphemy, because You—being a man—make Yourself God.”

What they refused to believe was that they were looking at the image of Father God when they looked upon the person of Jesus of Christ.  It would have been OK for Jesus to claim to be a prophet, or even a perfect human being perhaps, but not God in Flesh.  Or some religions are OK if you believe that Jesus is literally a son of God,  one of many gods, but not equal with God in every way.

Give and Get More this Christmas Season

Give and Get More this Christmas Season

The holiday season is when most people spend and do a lot. From statistics and survey results, we know that this is a global trend. Summary data just from 8 countries covering a 10-year period revealed the top spot belonging to Canada with the U.S. taking second place.

December is the biggest month of shopping. People are buying stuff. People are getting stuff. People are going places. People are cleaning up, cooking up, setting-up parties, and more. It’s busy, busy, busy. It’s things, things, things. It’s activities, activities, activities. The Christian family (especially the parents) needs to be careful not to allow themselves to be molded into this kind of Christmas culture. Young ones need to grow with a proper understanding of the meaning of Christmas. They must grow with more meaningful experiences and memories of spending Christmas and New Year holidays.

So, how can we give and get more during the Christmas Season?

  1. Instead of buying for people, “do” more for them. Let help be your gift. That will be more memorable. Ask friends and family who are nearby (and those at home), “What can I do for you this Christmas?” and let that be your gift. Maybe mow someone’s lawn or do some laundry and clean-up. Babysit kids or pets so a couple can go out on an unhurried date.
  2. Prioritize meaning and purpose over price and aesthetics. Give better gifts. These don’t need to be expensive. People don’t need more mugs, shirts, or shoes. How about short meditational books that give spiritual benefit? How about worship music CDs? How about a simple cup of coffee and meaningful chat?
  3. Prioritize time together with your most important relationships. Parties and meetings will be everywhere but time with your spouse, kids, siblings, and parents are most important. You won’t be together forever. Build stronger relationships with them while you can. Put time towards improving primary relationships.
  4. Choose simple over effort-consuming plans. It’s nice to plan for Christmas activities. It’s nice to want the best time for your family. Many times though, preparations suck the life out of you. By the time you are able to sit down and eat, no one is in the mood. It’s because tempers were lost and levels of frustration are high. Someone was late. Some food wasn’t cooked enough (or cooked too much). Think how much better it would be to just have minimal cooking and more enjoyment. Save your energy. Save your focus and joy. Eliminate the unnecessary tasks and go straight down to the business of just enjoying time together.
  5. Worship and remain worshipful. Christmas is not a once-a-year thing. It happened once but it changed everything for you and me. He’s done great things for us and He’s still accomplishing great things for us, in us, and through us today. Include Him in the festivities. Make time to be still in His presence. Worship as a family. Worship in solitude.

Steer your heart and mind away from the current trend of materialism. Pursue intangible and more meaningful ways to celebrate the birth of Christ. That is how you give and get more this Christmas season.

The Deeper Meaning of Advent Can't Be Ignored

The Deeper Meaning of Advent Can’t Be Ignored

As Christians, we remind ourselves that “God is still on his throne.” But as the world brims with heartbreak, it’s easy to wonder, “Has God has taken a hiatus? Is God really in control?”