(Excerpt from teaching/training classes, used also in pastoral counseling and prison ministry)
The term advent means “coming” and during this season Christians celebrate Christ’s First Coming to Bethlehem and we expectantly wait and prepare for His Second Coming in glory. The Lord came the first time to live the life we failed to live, to die the death we deserved to die, and to rise from the grave for our eternal salvation. Advent reminds me of these Scriptures and Jesus’ great story.
The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected… and He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life…. No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. (Luke 9:22; John 10:18)
We have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, so let us hold firmly to the faith….Christ is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, to receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Journalist Ellen Vaughn wrote the book, The God Who Hung On The Cross. She retells the amazing grace story how Jesus’ salvation came to a remote village in northern Cambodia. In 1999, Pastor Seng (not his real name) traveled to an isolated area where most people trusted in Buddhism, demonism, or veneration of the dead. Christianity was almost unheard of.
When Seng came to one small town, the people warmly welcomed him. He was shocked by their desire to learn all about Christ. Seng asked about their eagerness and an old woman (call her Chan) shuffled forward to answer. Chan bowed and said, “We’ve been waiting for you 20 years.” Then she told about how the God she loved, the One who once hung on the cross, had already saved her.
From 1975 to 1979, the Khmer Rouge (the brutal, Communist regime) ravaged Cambodia, killing two million people. When soldiers attacked Chan’s little village, they rounded up everyone and forced people to dig their own graves. When villagers finished digging, they all prepared to be slaughtered. Some screamed to Buddha; others prayed to demon spirits or to their departed ancestors.
Drawing on childhood memory, Chan begged for help from the God who had once hung on the cross, but is now risen, living, and active. Her mother told her about Jesus, even though Chan didn’t remember His name. She prayed to this crucified but resurrected Lord, reasoning that if He’d experienced sorrow and sadness Himself, He could and would have compassion on them now at this hopeless time.
Soon Chan’s neighbors joined in her prayers. They begged the Lord to save them. Everyone stared into their freshly dug graves, but they felt an unusual silence fill the muggy jungle air. Slowly, they turned around to face their executioners and saw that the soldiers had vanished! Christ the Risen Lord removed the enemies, as He often did in Bible times and over the past 2,000 years. Jesus still does that today all around the globe! He is not in the manger now, not on the cross now. Christ is alive and still rescuing desperate people!
Chan said that for 20 years villagers had been waiting, longing for someone to come tell the whole story of their loving, mighty Savior who had once hung on the cross but is now alive and reigning. Dear reader: Do you know Jesus’ whole story? Do you rejoice in Him and call on Him for help? Do you tell others?
Christ is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:25) Jesus says, “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)
Christ is still doing miracles of grace in the most unlikely places. And He can do them right where we live too. Jesus is still at work in His world and nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37)!