“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born that day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord’” Luke 2:10-11. So much doctrine in the old hymns! In the traditional lyrics of “O Holy Night,” the incarnation of Jesus is held up as the answer to mankind’s sin. The picture of creation groaning as it waits for the sons of God to be revealed from Romans 8 is clear in the 1st stanza: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining”—till God became flesh and made His dwelling among us, bringing us hope. In the lesser known 2nd stanza, we jump in this good news of great joy to perhaps two years later. Though scripture tells us that the toddler Jesus and his parents were in a house by the point that the wise men from the East were led by a star (and thus not by a “cradle” or “manger”), gentiles, for whom the gospel would later be opened, still sought the King of Kings. And though His own people at the time rejected Him, the work that Jesus did on the cross would open the gospel up to “all the people” who sought peace with God according to the 3rd stanza. Have you obeyed the good news of great joy?
“Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” Acts 17:21. Thanksgiving’s over; the tree goes up today! As a culture, we’re always looking for the next best thing. TV shows, clothing, cars—we’re obsessed with “something new.” When bell-bottoms, mullets, or vinyl records come back, we say they are retro. Something old is new once again. Perhaps that could happen with values? With church attendance as the pandemic wanes? With the gospel? Paul entered a city in which the philosophers of his day were so desperate for the next best thing that they were very receptive to what he had to say about “Jesus and the resurrection” and how God “has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man ….” This was a new idea in the 1st century, but in the midst of many watered-down, feel-good sermons in the church and on social media the gospel preached today would be considered retro. It begins, not with Santa nor stockings hung with care, but “good news of great joy” that a “Savior” was “born” who is “Christ the Lord.” Will you find in the old, old story something new?
“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” 1 Corinthians 1:4.
A busy seaport city, Corinth was rampant with idolatry and immorality. Somehow, a few turned their backs on the world and strive to walk in newness of life through Jesus, their Savior. Perhaps it was because the world was still too much within them? Perhaps they couldn’t help compromising with the culture they were immersed in to live out their immersion into Christ? But, the church there had some major struggles that Paul would address in his letters to them. Before he did that, however, he first gave thanks for them because God had given them grace that enriched them in speech and knowledge, gave them many spiritual gifts, and put them in the fellowship of God’s Son. They had everything that they needed to make good choices. Is that what we do in an affluent culture of abundance? Or do our thoughts stray toward satisfying our own pleasures? 21st century America is so like 1st century Greece. We have all we need to make good choices as we struggle not to fade away into the secular culture around us.
Will we thank God for His grace?
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Forget baseball, complaining is America’s favorite pastime. And despite scripture telling us to do everything without grumbling or complaining, Christians still partake often in this activity. Most save their com-plaining when things go wrong and give thanks when things go well. But even the lost in the world around us who don’t yet know Christ do that. What sets us apart? An attitude of gratitude. In all circumstances. While I taught, I saw a cartoon where one devil says to another about a lady walking through the fire all around her, “We’ll never get to her. She was a middle school teacher.” That’s how Christians need to be in the world that is burning all around us. This is God’s will for us “in Christ Jesus.” You see, if we have the promise of eternal life in Christ Jesus, nothing of this temporary world should affect us. What is perceived as bad or good here on earth does not matter because we are loved by a faithful God who has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Don’t sweat the small stuff, and here it is all small stuff. Do you give thanks in all circumstances?
“When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” Luke 18:22. The ruler had approached Jesus with “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Now, to the ears of Western culture, this may sound like he was looking for a once-and-done task that he could complete and then rest easy until eternity. Jesus does tell him that there’s one thing he lacks but then concludes with “come, follow me.” Jesus was not keeping the man away; his wealth was. The Greek words for ‘do’ and ‘follow’ have ‘abide’ in them. When we sing the song, “Abide with Me,” we want God’s presence dwelling with us, yes, but for that to happen we must be willing to abide with Him, like the ruler initially wanted to do. We can’t do that if we have something that comes between us and God. First we must remove whatever that is, and then the invitation is open; Jesus doesn’t turn anyone away. Let us not be like the ruler who, when he heard that what stopped him from abiding with Christ was not something he was willing to give up, went away sad. What do you lack to abide with Christ?