Sunday, December 2, 2012

The First Christmas message at the beginning of Advent

The fact that Christmas is coming trumps every other news item between now and the end of the year. So yes, we will pay attention to the bizarre and very public  suicide following the murder of his girlfriend by the NFL player in America.  In Jamaica, the election of the new head of the body that runs Track and Field in our country almost rivaled National Elections, on account of the passion that we have for the sport. And of course the kind of talent that so easily finds its way on to a top CNN show like Bolt did last night on the Pierce Morgan show. Yes, the issue of corporal punishment will always attract attention as it most certainly did in my country this past week, along with the  age old issue of “ buying athletes” by some coaches and schools. Of equal importance also is the very vexed and recurrent issue of money spent on buying vehicles for government ministers, especially  in trying economic times.  And of course many persons across the world are paying as much attention to the “ fiscal cliff “ in the USA,  as they are watching the situation unfolding in Egypt, what with the new President trying to subvert the constitution and make his rulings absolute law. Yes, all of the above, and more,  are “ trending” in the minds and hearts of people and in the minds of journalist all over the world. But make no mistake about it, whether you believe in Christ or not, Christmas always, always, at least in the western world, makes news.

So what did the Lord God of Hosts, the birth of whose One and Only Son triggered the Christmas celebrations, say to His people through His servant this week.?


I heard it twice today. First from a Bishop in  my church who presided at our 8:00 am service and preached a sermon of hope. And then tonight at a Crusade, from where I just returned. The great message of Christmas is that, “ when you are going through hard times, when nations are at war with each other, when the Cosmos is in trouble, when hurricanes and earthquakes make us tremble, when we read  of the terrible events in the book of Revelations, don’t’ turn back, because your Salvation is nigh”. Because God is still in charge.  As at the first Christmas, Jesus came on God’ s great rescue  mission to save our souls and give us the Victory over Satan and death. Bishop Leon Golding even quoted Bob   Marley’s , “ Get up stand up don’t give up the fight”. And later tonight Canon Basil Tynes  from The Bahamas  told us the story with the great punch line.  “If you fall in freezing water, and begin to feel warm, struggle even more, as the warm feeling means you are dying”. So Christians are never to feel comfortable in this world, as Jesus never came for those who “ have arrived” and do not need to struggle. So, again the great story about Christmas is that, we all need Jesus, and “ He come for one, He come for all”.

if you listen to the Lord carefully, it's quite amazing the things  that you hear.
 On Thursday night I sent out this tweet - Jean can vouch for it.
 I believe it to be a grave mistake to present Christianity as something charming and popular with no offense in it - Dorothy. L. Sayers
Then the following morning, with no intent on my part, I was led to read again the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as revealed in Genesis 18: 16-33 - the prelude when Abraham pleads for cities, asking God, " will you really sweep it away and not spare that place for the sake of  fifty righteous men". And then with great boldness he goes to  say, " Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?
And then Genesis 19-1-29 - the actual story.
The following things struck me, very forcibly.
1. That this story, although very instructive in the matter at hand, " the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know", the more profound point is that this story is a metaphor of man's general condition. Hence the need for the Salvation wrought by  one man, Jesus on the Cross, as the Sin of mankind, ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, wrought by , one man, Adam's disobedience, is grievous and the outcry has gone up to the heavens. If you have the time, and I would urge you to do so,  read Genesis 6, where the narrative reveals that,  " The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts  his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved (that word again) that he had made man on the earth , and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, I will wipe mankind, whom I have created from the face of the earth......but Noah found favor with God. In the same way the Blood of the Lamb atones for man's sin and protects us from  wrath of the " Judge of all the earth".  So Jesus and Him crucified then, is the ultimate answer to the eternal question posed by Abraham. " Will not the Judge of all the earth do right".
2. Lot's sons-in-law thought Lot was joking when he urged them to leave the city which under imminent judgement. Another metaphor for the reaction of many throughout history who have scoffed at the Word which says that " For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that they may not perish". The reality as Dorothy. L. Sayers put it, is that Christianity really has very serious words about judgement,  and is not only about a compassionate and loving God who is slow to anger and rich in mercy. So we are not joking when,  like John the Baptist's father,  we declare that like His son, we too are sent to warn those who " sit in darkness and are in the shadow of death. As " He who hath the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life".  1 John 5:12.    And as Bob Marley intoned poetically, for those who think they have a good life here on earth without being obedient to the One true Almighty God, " you think you are in heaven but you living in hell."
3. I am not sure what to make of this, but even Lot himself, when he hesitated, had to be " grasped by the hand of the angels" and led to safety. And we all  know what happened to his wife who " looked back".  The fact is that the inclination of man's heart is always towards disobedience to a holy  God, and we literally had to be , " grasped by the hand of God" and pulled to safety by the Blood of the Lamb. And even now many of us like Lot's wife, and the children of Israel in the desert, look back, yearn for the " good times" in Egypt, and in Sodom,  even though they were in bondage, even though they faced imminent disaster, when confronted with the  trials and challenges associated with living a holy life. And so a loving God, even though He has finished His work on the Cross, continues to send a Moses, angels, and others to " bring us to our senses", even we are  " the baptized "  lest we  too, look back, and  perish.
I pray God that all of us, and me first, in this discussion on the correct faith, will heed this warning, not just from Dorothy L Sayers, but from God Almighty Himself in and through His Word, written in the Bible, and Living in Christ.
TONIGHT’S COMMENT - When stripped of the excitement and lore surrounding the Christmas story, two essential messages are left. One of hope, and of the goodness of God. Every time! The other a warning, as manifested in the story of Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah.  And this is only possible if we keep in mind that Christ came to die on a Cross, and not live on as Santa Claus. A message which was reinforced by a meditation I read from Oswald Chambers, who popular book, “My utmost for His Highest”, I read every night before retiring.

THE BOUNTY OF THE DESTITUTE.                              NOVEMBER 28TH.
Verse: “Being justified freely by His grace…..” Romans 3:24
The gospel of the grace of God awakens an intense longing in human souls and an equal intense resentment, because the revelations is brings is not palatable. There is a certain pride in man that will give and give, but to come and accept is another thing. I will give myself in consecration; I will do anything, but do not humiliate me to the level of the most hell-deserving sinner and tell me that all that I have to do is to accept the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
We have to realize that we cannot earn anything or win anything from God; we must either receive it as a gift or do without. The greatest blessing spiritually is the knowledge that we are destitute; until we get there our Lord is powerless. He can do nothing for us if we think we are sufficient of ourselves; we have to enter into His Kingdom through the door of destitution. As long as we are rich, possessed of anything in the way of pride or independence, God cannot do anything for us. It is only when we get hungry spiritually, that we can receive the Holy Spirit. The gift of the essential nature of God is made effectual in us by the Holy Spirit; He imparts to us the quickening life of Jesus, which puts “ the beyond” within, and immediately “ the beyond” has come within, it rises up to “ the above” and we are lifted up into the domain where Jesus lives ( John 3: 5).
I pray God that this Christmas, all of us will come to the point where we are spiritually destitute. Where we can sing the third verse of that great Communion Hymn, “Here O my Lord I see thee face to face” with conviction

I have no other help but thine; nor do I need
 another arm save thine to lean upon:
it is enough, my Lord, enough indeed,
my strength is in thy might, thy might alone.
That would indeed be the best gift we could get this Christmas. Better than the latest Samsung smart phone. Better than a new Blackberry. Better than a new iPad 3. Better than a new iPhone 6. Better than a new Benz. Better than a new grandchild. Better than getting married over the season or celebrating an anniversary. So let us heed the warning this Christmas, and once again recommit our lives to the Kingship of Christ, and bring this Good news to all with whom we come in contact. Online or in real time.  As Jesus,   who came at the first Christmas,  is coming again soon. Will we be ready? Amen.