To the millions of Christians across the globe, the Christmas message is that joy has dawned on the world in the shape of God’s own son, Jesus Christ, and as gifts go, there can be no better. Jesus personifies God, he is God in human form, and our belief in his coming all those years ago, and his subsequent victory over death itself, assures us of peace everlasting. Peace is available to all, nobody is excluded, all we need do is humbly receive this gift of Jesus into our lives, it really is that simple.
We make choices every day, large and small, whether to put jam or peanut butter on our toast, and whether we believe in God or not. I opted for peanut butter this week, and regretted it (I’d mistakenly selected ‘crunchy’ instead of ‘smooth’, a schoolboy error). I’m satisfied though with my choice regarding the Jesus question, I believe in him, although in truth it’s God who chooses us. He designed you, he created you and he loves you, indeed he didn’t so much choose you as made you, and he delights in his creation.
This week at Stonehaven Baptist Church we learned more about this Jesus, studying together part of the letter Paul wrote to the Philippians, specifically chapter 2:5-11. The story of Jesus is limitless but these few short verses in the bible pretty well say it all. First, they declare that Jesus has always existed yet only became known to us through his birth here on earth. Jesus, like his father, has been omnipresent since the beginning of time, the Christmas story announcing his arrival amongst us from the realms of heaven. Further, we learn that God graciously humbled himself by taking the form of a servant, born in the likeness of man, to share the torments and emotions that we struggle with (and isn’t it an amazing, humble God who comes to us born with no pomp or fanfare, and in a stable rather than a palace).
Jesus gave up all of the privileges available to him to live a life that incorporated the difficulties we experience here on earth. If I were him I think I’d have plumped up my cushions and looked forward to a life of luxury but no, he went out into the wilderness to face forty days of temptation, yet remained sinless and spotless, caving in to nothing that evil could tempt him with either then or thereafter. And more, having lived a life of selfless kindness, grace and servitude, his ‘reward’ was death on a cross, crucifixion, the worst of deaths given to the worst of criminals. Why? It was as an atonement for every sin that you and I have ever committed. God can’t abide sin but forgives those who give their hearts to Jesus, he sees us only through the prism of his sinless son and by putting our faith in Christ we are made right with God.
Despite all of the wrong turns, muck ups, mistakes and messes that we make, despite some of the most heinous crimes that man chooses to commit with the free will God gave us, there is still room for God’s forgiveness. All we need do is believe in Jesus, God’s son, born to us on Christmas Day but available to us every minute of every day. Perhaps you might try praying to this God this Christmas if you’re going through the mill? And may his peace, that’s beyond all understanding, be given to you, not in small measure but in abundance.