From the very beginning of the Christmas account we see that Christmas is about the sinless Son of God coming to the sinful sons of Adam. We can’t come to God, so God comes to us.
That God came into our world to save us is beyond our comprehension. When the angel Gabriel told Mary that God the Holy Spirit would come to her to conceive the Christ child in her womb, she asked, “How can this be since I am a virgin?” And so we are not capable of understanding God and his ways. Christian faith is not a philosophy someone thought up so that it can be mastered upon devout reflection. Christian faith is not based on logic or observational science. It is born of divine revelation, God-inspired trust, which is the miracle of faith.
God revealed His purpose and plan— the promise of His love and His grace— in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. We do not have the mental capacity to understand how the infinite could take on the finite. In all of God’s plan of salvation we lack the intelligence to grasp why God the sinless one would do anything to save us lost in sin. But that’s how God operates so that we can sing at Christmas and for all time “Glory be to God on high!”
What we can understand is that we have tried to get right with God, but realized that no matter how hard we try, we cannot do it. We know what God wants of us. God wants us to love one another. God wants us to take care of the least and the lowest. God wants us to lay down our life for others, even as He laid down his life for us. But time and again we fail the test of love and compassion. We don’t have it in us to love as Christ loved us. You know it all too well, don’t you?
And that is why the world and we need Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of God reaching down to us when we could not reach up to Him. Consider how it all started. The angel Gabriel spoke the word of promise to Mary that the one born to her would be the long-awaited Messiah. His name would be Jesus, which means he would save his people from their sins. Mary couldn’t believe it, but the angel answered: “Nothing is impossible with God.” Mary answered, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” She didn’t doubt. But believed. She would believe God’s plan to save us by sending his Son to be the perfect substitute, who would keep God’s laws perfectly and die for the world’s sins innocently. Those who believe will be saved!
Listen and believe the angel’s words! Just as with Mary so God delivers his live-giving Word into our ears through to our heart. He does the impossible for you. See how through God’s Word the Spirit enabled Elizabeth’s dead womb bear a son. See how through God’s Word the Spirit went through Mary’s ear into her womb to conceive God’s Son, so that he is Emmanuel: “God with us.” Jesus even spoke life from death when Lazarus’ dead ears heard from the grave, “Come out!” If God’s Word can work to bring life to young and old – even the dead – that same life-creating, soul-sustaining Word of God will work in your heart nothing less than a miracle of faith and trust. The faith the Word created in your heart to believe the good news of Christ’s life on your behalf brings forgiveness and life into your heart right now. Rejoice! You do not need to reach to God, he reaches to you through Christ, the Word.
From heaven above to earth he came: to become man to save man. He lived as Immanuel – God with us – that we might live forevermore with God in heaven above.
+ Pr. Jim Schulz
Thanksgiving is a dangerous holiday. Not because we will overeat (the average American will eat more than 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day and that’s not including breakfast or the late night snack), and not because we will have an accident driving home from relatives, Thanksgiving is a dangerous holiday because we will view our prosperity, our good life, our blessings, as something we have gained at our own hands. We need to admit that there is so much in life over which we have no control. Anybody who says he or she is a totally self-made man or woman is delusional. If you think God had nothing to do with who you are and what you have today, at least acknowledge that you have been very lucky.
The fact of the matter is that God did have something, in fact, God had everything to do with who you are today. Most important is your salvation. One of the mysteries of our faith is that God saw you today and elected you to faith. Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (1:2-4)
Consider what Paul meant when he wrote to the Romans: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this?” (8:28-31)
Yes, what shall we say in response to this: That God foreknew you to be called according to his purpose? Perhaps Paul can answer that for us when he wrote to the Colossians: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (3:15-17) How can a Christian feel guilty, worry, or be afraid of life’s circumstances when giving thanks to God? He has done it all! He elected you to salvation! How do I know that? Because of your baptism. Because of the promises he speaks through his Word. Because he says through a pastor or fellow Christian “I forgive you your sins.” Because the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper delivers the remission of sins. All these things God elected believers to receive in faith. With Paul we say, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Gratitude doesn’t depend on what you have in your bank account, but what you have in your heart. What do you have in your heart? Do you believe what God has done for you in Christ? Give thanks to God he placed that trust in your heart. Remember your God on Thanksgiving Day. He has made you everything you are in Christ.
+ Pr. Jim Schulz