“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” Romans 4:7-8. Abraham knew this blessing as he believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. This belief was not a mental affirmation of God’s promise as he submitted to circumcism as a sign of this covenant. Obedient action followed faith. So it was for David who is attributed to speaking these words from Psalm 32. When Nathan makes him aware of his sin with Uriah’s wife, David declares, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Lest we think that repentance is just mental affirmation of guilt, we should explore the godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10-11) that David undergoes in Psalm 51. So too, our faith is not just mental affirmation of who Jesus is and what He has done for us at the cross and tomb. We believe and so we submit in obedient action to baptism into Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. It’s a sign of the new covenant made in His blood that redeems us (Ephesians 1:7). So we now can sing: “I’m redeemed by love divine, Glory, glory, Christ is mine … All to Him I now resign, I have been redeemed!” Are you redeemed?
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12. Only the gospel could give Peter and John such boldness before the very body that had condemned Jesus to death. Not long before they had all deserted their Lord and Master in the garden and cowered in an upper room. Despite his determination before the cross to even die with Jesus if necessary, Peter still denied the One He had earlier declared to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” What was the difference? The poured-out Holy Spirit and a resurrected Savior! The good news of great joy was too good and the joy too great for Peter to contain. So, the inquisition became an opportunity. Jesus died for sin (they crucified Him), but God raised Him from the dead (death is conquered now through Christ). All the world had the power to do was beg them not to speak in Jesus’ Name anymore. And we know how that went! Is that how you are? Has the gospel so affected you that every interaction is an opportunity? Are you enthusiastic that God became a man to die for your sins and then rose from the dead for your eternity?
“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 called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” Isaiah 9:6. The famous poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was too burned to attend his wife’s funeral after he tried to save her when her dress caught fire. Two years later, this father of six (five as one had died in childbirth) boarded a train to DC to tend to his oldest who was near death from a battle of the Civil War and penned the poem that a decade later was set to music to become “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” In it he contrasts the horrors and despair of life to the gospel message of “peace on earth, good will to men.” Those who have experienced such tragedy find it easier to not make this world their home. Realizing the darkness and difficulty of our existence here, we find comfort, rather, in the Prince of Peace, who made peace between us and God but ironically did not come to bring peace but a sword between us and the world. Sadly, far too often we look for consolation from the world we have made our home. Have you come into the peace that Jesus offers?
“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 sins of the people” Hebrews 2:17. It’s not about candy canes or lights, trees or sleighs, chimneys or flying reindeer. Perhaps many who celebrate, not Christmas but the birth of Jesus as the Word made flesh, have no idea that this biblical event is really the start of the gospel message. The angel announced the good news of great joy in a “Savior” that was born. If a Savior, then what is He saving us from? Joseph was told the answer: Jesus would “save his people from their sins. That’s an odd thing to say before a baby is born, an odd thing to call Him at His birth. But in all the details of the incarnation--shepherds, a manger, and a star—we forget to ask why did our Savior need to be born? The answer is that Jesus was fully God to be our Savior, but He had to become fully man to be our sacrifice. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself partook of the same things that through death ….” God could not die, but we would in our sins. He took on our sin to be our sacrifice to God.
“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?