Christmas – A time to celebrate Jesus as the Saviour of the World
John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.
John one of loving disciples of Jesus wrote of Jesus so that people may believe that
John 20:31 “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing they may have life in his name”.
It is amazing that gentile seekers (the Magi) took a long journey to behold the Son of God with their gifts. Jesus’ birth was predicted in prophecies of the Old Testament and we learn from the book of Daniel about Magi working as the King’s dream interpreters and advisors in Babylon. The “seventy sevens” prophecy in Daniel chapter 9 predicted the precise date that Jesus, the Messiah, would be “cut off.” These seekers had studied these prophecies carefully.
In Luke 2:8-22 we read that the Shepherds not only took a journey to behold the Son of God in Bethlehem, but also “they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them”.
Jesus was to be born as perfectly human and perfectly divine (Isaiah 7:14). He was to be called ‘Immanuel’ which means “God with us” (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus was to be actively involved in every sphere of this world: “…the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace” (Micah 5:2): Jesus’ origin was from of old, from ancient times.
The foundation of the Christian faith therefore is based on our firm belief in the historic Jesus. He is the true revelation of God. A healthy church is one where its worshipping community acknowledges with honesty the Uniqueness of Jesus Christ and beholds Him as their Saviour and the only true God in this world.
Bishop Julian in the Diocesan Synod on 18th October shared his vision for the Diocese of Blackburn, asking us ‘Where we are Heading?’ This document has already been published on our website and is included in our magazine this month. In January 2015 the Diocesan Synod will adopt this document for the next twelve years. In 2026 when the Diocese of Blackburn will celebrate its 100 years as a Diocese, it is hoped that this vision will bear fruit.
Bishop Julian brought to our attention that the decline in membership of the Anglican Churches in Lancashire is the highest nationally. We are standing on a burning platform. We need a radical change and not just tweaks and adjustments. He emphasised that the Church has to reinvent itself and become a healthy church capable of transforming the communities. He emphasised that without wholehearted discipleship and complete faith in Jesus our outward expression will be ineffective and futile. We have to inwardly become Christ like.
This can only happen when we renew our understanding of being disciples of Jesus Christ. We need to return to the Gospel of the Scriptures. We have to take the biblical revelation seriously. We have to recover confidence in the Gospel for the urgency of evangelism. We have to reequip our lay and ordained leaders for today’s missional context. We have to unashamedly bring others to faith in Jesus. We have to change our methods of sharing the gospel without changing its true message.
We do realise that in the context of inter-faith relationships and meetings there is some level of hesitation in affirming honestly Jesus Christ as our Saviour. A healthy Church does not dilute or adulterate the Gospel. The writer of Hebrews in his concluding exhortations encourages the persecuted Christian community to speak the truth in love about who this Jesus is to the Christian? Jesus will never leave His people and will always be there for them. He reminds them of the purposeful and focussed leadership of the Apostles and says that (Hebrew 13:8), “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”.
We have a great example in St. Paul who uses his knowledge of Greek Literature and existing ideologies and writings of his time as a vehicle to communicate and proclaim his firm faith and belief in Jesus Christ in Athens (Acts 17:28). Paul quotes a Greek poet Epimenides of Crete: “for in him we live and move and have our being”. Paul also quotes, “We are his offspring”, from Cilician poet Aratus. Aratus was referring to Zeus, but Paul is talking about God who is the Father of all. Paul puts it to his hearers: why are you insulting this almighty creator-Father-God by making idols of metal and stone? This ignorance must stop! He wants people to turn from the ‘Unknown God’ and discover what God is really like in Jesus. Jesus is the One who died and rose to life. Jesus is the One who will come to judge the world.
Unfortunately we enter into inter-faith dialogue with less knowledge about other faiths and also lack of honesty and passion for communicating this unique incarnate God in Jesus Christ. Our faith conversations are reduced to either social gatherings with other faiths or a hesitant and half-hearted theological stance from Christian practitioners. We are not confident enough to take the name of Jesus publicly with honesty and sincerity. Christian theology has taken too many pains to justify its existence in the European context since the Middle Ages. We unconsciously or consciously become Universalists in our theological position and fail to speak about the uniqueness of Jesus’ teaching in response to the serious existential issues facing the communities. The issues of Peace and Justice are reduced to faith-based regional interpretation. Our tongue has become too tight to speak about ‘God’s yes’ and ‘God’s No’ and to proclaim ‘Good News’. We all want to either be politically correct or in a settled way manage community relations without any substantive spiritual values for living together.
Let this Advent help us to reinvent our life in Jesus. Let Christmas be a time to celebrate and behold this Son of God through the eyes of our hearts. Let us take our ‘Theology of the Word’ and proclaim this ‘Word made Flesh’ unashamedly. Let us show the power of Love, Compassion and Sacrifice Jesus showed on this earth in His person and work . CS Lewis known for his wonderful quotation shares his passionate faith in Jesus. He writes, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
BINA AND I WISH YOU ALL A HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND JOYFUL NEW YEAR
Sources used to write this article
Bible – NIV Version
Andrew Knowles, 2001, The Bible Guide
Karl Barth, 1962, Evangelical Theology – An Introduction