Published in The Calhoun Times Saturday, December 19th
I love Christmas. That’s exactly what I said before writing a series of articles about angels, wise men and the nativity. As a pastor, Bible teacher and religion columnist I wanted to remind everyone that the story presented in scripture is just as beautiful and moving as the one we create on the covers of Christmas cards and in our movies and t.v. specials. But at our house we also decorate and light a tree, hang our stockings by the chimney with care, and leave cookies and milk out for Santa. I love all of those classic holiday traditions and also read from the scriptures and light the candles on our Advent wreath. Christians don’t have to win the culture war to enjoy Christmas; I’m not even sure we should fight the culture war, but that’s a different topic for another day. The real miracle of Christmas is not the night of Jesus’s birth. What we as believers are really celebrating is the incarnation.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:13-22 ESV)
That is the story of the Gospel, neatly summarized in one paragraph. Our natural condition separates us from God but the ministry of Jesus Christ brings us near. “For he himself is our peace,” making peace between us and God and uniting us into a single body of believers. The word peace in in that passage no less than four times. He has killed the hostility and made peace, to those who were near and far off. Through him we are united in one Spirit and have access to the Father. We are citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God. “Christ himself being the cornerstone…” This prophesy first occurs in Psalm 118 but it is mentioned several times in the New Testament. Jesus quotes the passage from Psalms in Matthew 21, speaking of his own impending crucifixion. Luke quotes it again in Acts 4, Paul mentions it here, and Peter does so again in 1 Peter chapter 2. Paul describes a structure in this passage being joined together and growing into a holy temple. Peter describes Jesus as the cornerstone and each of us being living stones, before calling all Christians “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.” All made possible by Jesus’s life in the flesh and death on the cross.
Critics of the Bible claim it was written by emperors to keep their subjects under control, written by men to keep women in subjection, and/or cobbled together over hundreds of years into a single volume with no coherence or relevance. I hope you can see the whole of scripture for what it is: a passionate and dramatic love story. God loved us when we were unloveable. I don’t know about the relationship you had with your parents, your romantic involvements or what kind of parent you have been to your own children – but God loves you. As long as we have breath it’s never too late. That’s what we are reminded of at Christmas. When we could not come to God he came to us. The very Son of God stepped away from power and glory to walk the earth robed in flesh. And his birth is just beginning of that story.
If you want to know how much God hates sin, look at the cross. If you want to know how much God loves you, look in the manger. God bless, and have a merry Christmas.