Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: God’s Son appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)
Many people feel lonelier at Christmas time and most counselors’ caseloads get heavier. No one calls or visits. No one asks how you’re doing or listens to your thoughts. You are alone. Families often feud more during the holidays and many factors can cause us hurt and stress. Spiritual, emotional, and relational suffering often increase when we zoom in on our problems in an unhealthy way and can’t see anything else. We get stuck, can’t take action, and then get more frustrated. In the verses above, God calls us to zoom out, focus on Christ His unique Son, worship the King of kings in spirit and truth, and regain God’s perspective on our situation and get His help.
Paul is quoting from an early Christian hymn or confession of faith. It reminds me of three dimensions of biblical Christianity, illustrated in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Dickens (1812-1870) is one of the most popular writers of all time and he was a keen observer of human pains and problems. He said, “The New Testament is the best book the world has ever known or ever will know.” Here are three postures I use to reorient myself back to God and His ways, plans, goals, and priorities for my life and I prayerfully hope others will do the same.
We can look back (past tense with ongoing significance) and rejoice that God’s Son really came down in the flesh to save us from our sins. That’s the best news! Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension all happened in history. You could have filmed these events. When the set time came, God sent His Son, born of Mary, born under the law, to redeem us from the curse and to adopt us as God’s sons and daughters.1 That’s our true identity (who we are) and our destiny (where we’re headed). So even in hard times, sad times, confusing times, we can praise God and be glad because of Christ’s finished atonement and our guaranteed, eternal salvation in Him! As we follow the Holy Spirit’s lead, God assures us that we are His children and helps us walk with Him.2 Our whole Christian life is founded on Jesus’ historic saving work for us, not our doing or our getting it right. Isn’t that a relief?
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.3
We can look up (present tense) to Christ every day, rejoice in Him, and ask Him for help. Christianity has deep historical roots, but we can’t live in the past, wish for it, or get stuck there. Corrie ten Boom reminds us, “If Jesus were born in Bethlehem yet not born again in me, I’d be eternally lost.” Peter states: Though you have not seen Christ, you love Him, believe in Him, and have joy greater than words and full of glory.4 That doesn’t happen automatically; we need to abide in Christ, remain in Him, stay joined to Him, dwell in Him by faith.5 When we do that, the Psalmist says: Those who look to Jesus are radiant with joy (lightened, happy, smiling, shining like the sun); their faces are never covered with shame.6 That’s how I want to live all the time. Don’t you? Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us do that. He gives His good gifts to those who ask Him!7 Christ speaks to those who take time to listen and He listens to those who take time to pray. The Spirit helps us live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us.8 In the dark valleys of life, the God of all comfort (Father, Son, and Spirit) is at our side. Jesus’ name is Immanuel, meaning, “God with us”9 and we need Him step by step, all the time.
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining, Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine; So from the beginning the fight we were winning; You, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Yours!10
We can also look ahead (future tense) and rejoice in our Savior’s Second Coming because Christ promises He will return for us. His coming will be personal and visible and we will meet Jesus on His triumphal re-entry to earth. The Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with the sound of God’s trumpet. We will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.11 John Chrysostom remarked, “In His first advent, God veiled His deity to prove the faithful. In His second advent, He will reveal His glory to reward our faith in Him.” Believers shouldn’t argue about the timing of Jesus’ Second Coming; we must help each other prepare for it. We must help each other, sharpen each other, spur each other on to love and good deeds as we walk together along the narrow road the Heaven, pursuing a long obedience in the same direction.12
O Lord, how shall I meet you, How welcome you aright? Your people long to greet you, My hope, my heart’s delight! O, kindle, Lord, most holy, Your lamp within my breast, To do in spirit lowly, All that may please you best.13
Sorrow, suffering, frustration, failure, discouragement, and dying are parts of our life now in this fallen world. But Christ Jesus has come down to conquer these enemies and He will return to dwell with us and take away all death, mourning, crying, and pain, for the old order of things will pass away. The Lord will wipe every tear from our eyes with His own finger.14 So we say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus….How my heart yearns within me!15
By God’s grace, let us live in such a way that those who know us but don’t follow Christ will come to follow Jesus because they know us.
Notes: 1 Gal 3:13; 4:4,5. 2 Rom 8:16. 3 from hymn by Edward Mote (1797-1874). 4 1 Pet 1:8. 5 John 15:4. 6 Psalm 34:5. 7 Matt 7:11. 8 Gal 2:20. 9 Isaiah 7:14; Matt 1:23.
10 from hymn by Theodore Baker (1851-1934). 11 1 Thess 4:16-18. 12 Heb 10:24,25. 13 from hymn by Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676). 14 Rev 21:1-4. 15 Rev 22:20; Job 19:27.