Bag of All sorts: # 13 - Christmas 2019
Observations on Christmas
☼ The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that he sunk himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding. Martin Luther.
☼ God became man to turn creatures into sons; not simply to produce better (people) of the old kind but to produce a new kind of (person). C. S. Lewis.
☼ If Jesus were born one thousand times in Bethlehem and not in me, then I would still be lost. Corrie ten Boom.
☼ We must not have Christ Jesus, the Lord of Life put any more in the stable amongst the horses and asses, but He must now have the best chamber. George Fox.
☼ I heard the bells on Christmas Day their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, goodwill to men! Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
☼ Joy is the gigantic secret of the Christian. G. K. Chesterton.
☼ The hinge of history is on the door of a Bethlehem stable. R. Sockman.
☼ Christ has outlasted the empire that crucified Him 19 centuries ago. He will outlast the nations who deny him now. Anon.
☼ As the print of the seal on the wax is the express image of the seal itself, so Christ is the express image---the perfect representation –of God. Ambrose.
☼ The nature of Christ’s existence is mysterious, I admit; but—reject it and the world is an inexplicable riddle; believe it, and the history of our race is satisfactorily explained—Napoleon Bonaparte.
☼ We know how God would act if he were in our place—He has been in our place. Tozer.
☼ Christ is the great central fact in the world’s history. To him everything looks forward or backward. All the lines of history converge upon him. C.H. Spurgeon.
☼ There were only a few shepherds at the first Bethlehem. The ox and the ass understood more of the first Christmas than the high priests in Jerusalem. And it is the same today. Thomas Merton.
☼ When Jesus came to earth, it was not his Godhead he laid aside, but his glory. Anon.
The Christmas Invasion
“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to,” wrote the apostle Paul, referring to Jesus. “Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the…position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself--- and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
“The God of infinity broke into human history not with a thundering invasion from the heavens, but with first-time-mum’s cry and a gush of bloody amniotic fluid. God’s campaign to win back Earth was launched in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger.
The prophets had long foretold that a Messiah would come on a rescue mission.---There is a war going on—on both a cosmic and a personal level—in which we are participants. In God’s upside-down kingdom, victory sometimes looks strangely like defeat. With a final cry and a gush of bloody pericardial fluid, Jesus proclaimed His triumph as He died on the cross: “It is finished!” (John19:30-34)
How had He won? At first His followers didn’t recognise His victory---they scattered. It was only later, encountering the resurrected Jesus and piecing together ancient prophecies, that His early followers began to understand the power of His sacrificial death; the grip of sin and condemnation had been broken. “In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities.” (Colossians 2:15)
But Paul doesn’t stop there; he explains the implications of Jesus’ victorious death to the early Christians: “You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world.” (v20) Those who will accept the power of Christ’s death and resurrection for themselves, are themselves empowered and given new life, claiming back the ground from sin and the devil. Paul uses battle language, making it clear that although the war has been effectively won, the enemy is not going quietly. “Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil…(Ephesians 6:13-17)
The Baby in a manger was a conquering warrior using not earthly weapons, but much more powerful forces: love, truth and peace.
Abbreviated, Kent Kingston, Signs of the Times December 2019
Barth on Preaching
In one of his earliest books Karl Barth has written, “On Sunday morning when the bells ring to call the congregation and minister to Church, there is in the air an expectancy that something great, crucial and even momentous is to happen. Above all, here is a man upon whom the expectation of the apparent imminent event seems to rest in a special way. He will enter the pulpit and ---here is daring ---preach.”
Barth describes the human situation to which from the strange world of the Bible this preacher must speak—the suffering, fate, evil and death in the lives of his people. He describes a world that is tired of hearing from the pulpit what sophisticated newspaper columnists and clever media communicators can say more effectively. When men look to the pulpit today they expect to hear an authentic Word of God, great, timeless, Bible centred messages which the Church is capable of speaking.
The Church must proclaim the message of God’s sovereignty; it must remind man, pessimistic because he seems to have lost control of his world, that this is not his world anyway, but Gods, and God has not lost control of it. God created this world. He accepts responsibility for it. He redeemed it in Jesus Christ, and by raising Christ from the dead, demonstrated conclusively that no concentration of stupidity or evil can pluck the world out of his eternal purpose.
The Church must proclaim the timeless message of sin and redemption. It must keep alive in men’s mind the very concept of sin as that godless pride which carries its own retribution—not that men may crawl the gutter of self-disgust but that, humbling themselves under the mighty hand of God, they may receive God’s forgiveness and with it the power to live a new and better life. The Church must proclaim a message of hope. It must communicate to men the faith that all of life, even its tragedies, make sense, that running through this strange scheme of things there is a pattern, and that the last word in the world is not cancer or insanity or death or the awful destruction and sinfulness of total war but a Divine love and power working for our redemption and certain to triumph in the end.
H.A. Hodges has written that the task of the Church today is to make Christianity visible, intelligible and desirable. We have to make it visible by showing that it is a possible way of looking at things. We have to make it intelligible by showing that it gives sense to life and provides a reasonable way of living. We have to make it desirable by awakening a fresh consciousness of those needs and impulses of human nature which it is meant to satisfy.
This means renewal. It means that the Church must ever be willing to rethink and reinterpret its message that it may speak relevantly and authoritatively to the human situation. “For if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle.”
Prayer: Grant wisdom and understanding, O Lord, to all your ministers who preach the right word of a true faith. May they study to show themselves approved by you, people that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Amen.
Re-presented, Rev E. A. Curnow Oct 2019