A question of quails

Looking back on 2018, I’d say one of its features has been an advancement in the area of “rights”. I won’t go into the politics of it, but the legalization of marijuana — without any more meaningful consultation than the annual 4/20 gatherings in major cities — is one area that comes to mind.

You can probably think of other such areas, but in contrast to the civil rights movement of the 60s, when the issue was an end to discrimination based on skin colour, the “rights” being claimed are very self-focused — more along the lines of “I’ll do me – you do you, so long as I’m not offended”.

It makes one wonder: isn’t what God has given us good enough?

In Jesus Christ, we have an amazing amount of freedom, especially the most important freedoms of all, namely, freedom from fear, freedom from death, freedom from our past, and freedom to have all the things God wants for us, including love, health and prosperity, even as our soul prospers (3 John 1:2). There are things God tells us we should not do, if we want life, and things He says we shall do (or not do), when we are in a relationship with Him – things I believe are indications of that relationship rather than keys to the relationship itself. But all in all, the freedom God gives us is greater and richer than anything we could ever imagine.

But as humans, we demand more.

In one of his many conversations with God during the trek from Egypt to the Promised Land, Moses cries out to the Lord,

“Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ ….”

(God replies) “Then you shall say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the hearing of the LORD, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt.” Therefore the LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the LORD who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?” ’ ”

==

Now a wind went out from the LORD, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground.

And the people stayed up all that day, all night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers); and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp.

But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was aroused against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very great plague.

So he called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah [“Graves of Craving”], because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving.

— Numbers 11:13; 18-20; 31-34

Are not the “rights” and “freedoms” people are demanding and receiving these days the result of cravings?

Is our world any better off for people being granted these freedoms? Look around: is our society not angrier and more discontented than ever, with people on one side constantly on-guard to protect their individual freedoms and call out anyone who offends them?

God had been providing quails in the evening for the Hebrews in the wilderness, but that wasn’t good enough for them: so He gave them so many quails to eat, that they choked to death on them.

God has given us true liberty, and in Christ, freedom from the chains of trying to make and live by our own rules. That liberty came at a price: in 2019, let’s take some time to consider the price and be content with what it bought us.

Sharing the True Meaning of Christmas

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them all the things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

— Matthew 28:19-20

It is now Christmas IV, going by the Twelve Days of Christmas format.

4 CALLING BIRDS

Four calling birds (note what’s in the beaks of the cockatoo and the green parrot). At Butchart Gardens*

This means you may well be surrounded by culture and friends and family that look to the more “worldly” version of Christmas, which focuses on Santa Claus, presents, chestnuts roasting on an open fire and Rudolph. It can be a great opportunity to witness Jesus. The thing is, bringing up Jesus in the midst of singing “Jingle Bells” or “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” may not be the definition of uber-cool. You may get personal satisfaction out of speaking up and saying something beginning with, “Well, actually …”, but others may get turned off and stop listening before you’ve reached the key point — and it’s hard to win souls when you’re losing listeners.

Nor can you clam up and crawl off into a corner with your Bible. We’re supposed to be “in the world – not of it”, but separating yourself only makes you into a stuck-up religious snob, for whom the rest of the world isn’t holy enough.

peanuts-christmas-linus-speech

“Lights, please.”

The trick is to be on the lookout for an opportunity. Linus got lucky, when Charlie Brown cried, “Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?” Usually, though, the overture isn’t quite so obvious. Expect the unexpected: it’s likely that someone will say or do something that invites a response that involves Jesus, and that’s when you can open your mouth and let the Holy Spirit do the talking.

Some years ago, when I was fired from a radio station during a purge of older on-air talent, the Human Resources guy who flew in from Edmonton to swing the axe asked me if I was okay. There was my chance: “Hey,” I said, “if I didn’t have Jesus Christ in my life, I’d be a basket case.” I hope that planted a seed in his life. Generally, that’s all one can hope for.

Most often, it’s not words that will convince people, but your actions.

Take each and every opportunity to preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.

— att. to St Francis of Assisi

If you

  • maintain a positive attitude,
  • refuse to judge others,
  • assume that someone who’s doing wrong — either by you or by others — is not acting from evil intent but really feels they’re doing the right thing,
  • encourage people at every turn and not allow any words to drag you or anyone else down, and of course,
  • are humble without drawing attention to your humility;

sooner or later, people will notice there’s something different about you. They’ll see that you don’t respond to situations in a way that would satisfy your body.

Sooner or later, they’ll want to know why.

Sanctify the lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.

— 1 Peter 3:15

So as we continue to celebrate Jesus’ birth, let’s learn to sharpen our senses so we’ll spot the opportunities as they come, and know how to let people in on the good news we’ve known for so long.


*Yeah, I know the original song referred to “collie birds” — as in black (as coal) birds, possibly crows … 

If you want it …

And suddenly, there was with the Angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host, praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest! And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
— Luke 2:14
dali-christmas-1

The Nativity — Salvador Dali

Recently, I was struck by something I’d puzzled about for many years: John Lennon’s declaration that “War is over, if you want it”.

The Angels’ song, heard by the shepherds outside Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, was actually a declaration of war: war on war, in fact, as only God can do it. With those two sentences, He changed the game, and with World War III blazing all around us, let’s take a breath and contemplate that.

The movie Miss Congeniality spoofs a recurring theme in the hopes and dreams of beauty pageant contestants — to work for “world peace”. A friend of mine recently sent her own non-religious holiday greeting with the words Pax in terra. But if you parse the Angels’ song, you actually find that “peace on earth” is just one of three interconnected ideas:

  1. Glory to God in the highest
  2. On earth peace
  3. Goodwill toward men
I believe those three are not only interconnected, they’re inseparable. We are to give the greatest glory to God — glorify Him with our words, our actions and most importantly our love; and extend goodwill towards everybody, regardless of their declared Religion, background or past — remembering that “goodwill” actually means God’s Will, and His Will is for us to have more abundant life.
When we do that, we have peace on earth.
Can we have peace on earth without giving God the highest glory and extending His will towards people?
Have we even tried? Think about it.
War is over, John sang, if you want it.
As I contemplate that, I realize that God has done His part to end the war. He’s given us an “out” through the Birth of His Son, that breaks us out of that vicious cycle that comes from the human desire to want “one last lick”, but it’s up to us to receive it.
Jesus also breaks us out of that mind-set — the slavery — of discrimination and hatred caused by race, class, educational background, religious doctrine or any of the myriad other things that cause one group of people to claim superiority over another — which is the basis of all wars.
The thing is, God has declared “war is over”; it’s up to us to agree.
This Christmas, and heading into 2019, I pray that we’ll all reach out, in our way, to receive that amazing Gift the Lord has given us: the solution, that smashes the chains of our own human nature and the yoke that comes with it, and truly sets us free.
Merry Christmas, everybody!

The right man for the job

Can you think of a less heralded man in the Bible than Joseph?

He doesn’t have much more than a “walk-on” role in this Divine Drama, but just as God chose the right girl to bear His Son, the man she married also had to be the right man.

We know this: he was a just man (Matthew 1:19) — not religious, but combined knowledge of the law with an innate sense of right and wrong: empathy for the girl he loved. While he knew what the law said he should do, his heart made him want to cut her a break. Isn’t that reflected in Jesus’ words?

“Because of the hardness of your heart (Moses) wrote you this precept (on divorce). But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh,’ so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

— Mark 10:5-9

Perhaps the young Jesus saw that at work in His own parents’ marriage, driven by love and one’s heart, rather than strict application of the law. As with everything else, Jesus spoke from experience, not from theology.

We know that Joseph was a carpenter (Mark 6:3). The Roman Catholic church canonized him as St Joseph the Worker. What do we know about carpenters? They build things from raw material, and they do so by following instructions. What if a carpenter were to say, “Blueprints? We don’t need no stinkin’ blueprints!”: who knows how many people would fall off (or through) the chair or whether the bookshelf would hold the weight of one magazine?

But to get back to the Joseph’s and Mary’s relationship, there was Mary, the perfect girl, and here was Joseph, whose heart was for doing the right thing. I get the sense that their relationship was a love marriage, as opposed to something arranged, and that it had built up over time. That might explain why Joseph was so willing — one might say desperate — to believe that something extraordinary was behind her getting pregnant and that she wasn’t the sort of girl who would have cheated on him.

Joseph was open to hear and act on the word of an angel of the Lord; he was also authoritative enough that when he told Mary, “We have to get out of here now — tonight!“, to escape Herod, there was no back-chat. That was another Divine manoeuvre, setting up the fulfillment of the prophecy, “Out of Egypt I have called My Son” (Hosea 11:1).

Joseph was a model husband. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.” (Ephesians 5:25) For all his strength and authority, Joseph risked ridicule for standing by Mary: he obeyed the word of God and put Mary’s interests ahead of his own. It’s an example we husbands should try to emulate.

For a quiet time on Christmas …

The world, as Wordsworth wrote, is too much with us: “Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers”. Now it’s Christmas Day and in the rush to find presents and wrap them and visit friends and family and search in vain for a Hallmark Christmas movie that you can’t predict within the first five minutes, we need to find time to go quiet and reflect on what Christmas is all about.

Me, I love those early mornings, ankling down to the living room and plugging in the Christmas tree lights. Then I sit in my favorite chair and simply gaze at the bright colors and the outlines of the decorations; and that’s when I get to contemplate Christmas. Maybe you have a similar ritual, too.

Here’s a lovely piece of Scripture to reflect on, and it’s the prophecy of Zacharias, after his son, John the Baptist, was born and Zacharias, who had been struck dumb when for doubting the word of the Angel Gabriel, is suddenly able to speak again. But his first words are not about his own son, but the One to come.

“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began, that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham: to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness, before Him all the days of our life.

— Luke 1:68-75

God has visited and redeemed His people: Jesus hasn’t been born yet, but Zacharias is speaking in the past tense, declaring that His word — His covenant with Abraham and the prophecies of hundreds of years — has now been fulfilled.

The prophecy is a huge sigh of relief, on behalf of the children of Israel: at last, it’s happening before their eyes, and the way Zacharias describes it, it’s proof that when God says something, it’s already happened, and it’s up to us to watch and wait for it.

In Jesus, in the Holy Spirit, God visits us and redeems us. He blows away the things that have prevented us from drawing close to Him — and as we will learn, and old Simeon predicts in his “light-and-dark” prophecy when Jesus is brought to the temple, it takes the most drastic action of all to do it. But in God’s eyes, we’re worth it.

We’re worth it.

Time to contemplate and celebrate!

Joy to the World!

“Ah, the Detergent Song,” my somewhat irreverent high school music teacher said, causing me to corpse in class*.

We were swotting up on carols for the annual Christmas concert, and Joy to the World was next on the list. Yes, kiddies, Uncle Drew lived in a time when public school Christmas concerts were called “Christmas Concerts” and not “Winter Festivals”, and the music mentioned Jesus and angels and Bethlehem. We even performed Handel’s Messiah, largely in the name of exposing us to the great musical works of all time. There being very little no music that has endured over centuries that was not in some way divinely inspired, we were exposed a lot to music that glorified God and Jesus Christ.

(In the early part of this century, my daughter’s public-school choir (made up of children from all over the school district – kind of an all-star lineup) also performed songs about Jesus at Christmastime. The local member of the legislature, a member of a left-wing party dedicated to political correctness, was at the concert, and when we wished her “Merry Christmas”, she looked like she’d been hit with a halibut. But I digress …)

G.F. Handel is actually credited with the tune to Joy to the World, and I can believe it. Its opening is very close to the chorus, Glory to God, from Messiah, and is a marvellous expression of the whole nature of the announcement:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

The notes descend grandly, like God Himself, descending to earth.

Let Earth receive her King!

And the notes climb back up, as we on earth reach up to receive Him.

In the past few years, retailers have been urging us to “give Joy”, connecting it with images of anything from fancy clothes to cars to jewellery to power tools to coffee; but they don’t define “joy”. “Joy” is reduced to an advertising slogan, stripped of any Godly significance. Indeed, “joy” in that context is another of the enemy’s counterfeits, like saying “you can be good without God”**.

So what is Joy? Let me offer something.

First, joy is not “happiness”. “Happiness” is a very worldly concept, based on one’s mood at a given moment. You have a good job, assets exceed liabilities, you’re in a relationship that meets your needs: you’re happy. Something goes wrong with any of those, and you’re not happy.

Joy is something you experience regardless of whether you’re “happy” or not. Joy is that inalienable sense – knowledge, in fact — that God is still in control, no matter what happens. Joy is knowing in your heart that

… all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

— Romans 8:28

Joy is something that can only be experienced through a relationship with God. It’s not something you buy in a store (or online) and it’s certainly not something we can give to one another. Joy comes from God, and when He sent His Son to earth to be among us, it was to give us that comfort in rough times that He is there, ready, willing and more than able to carry us through: helping us learn from those rough times what we need to know and that we’re not supposed to be able to deal with things alone.

Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

— Nehemiah 8:10

Joy keeps us going, even when the world tells us to “quit” or that it’s “as good as it gets”. Joy tells us that there is always something better, and as we hang in there and stay close to God, we’ll see the “something better” – and it will be more than we could ever ask or think.

So on this Christmas Eve, remember that The Lord has come, the Saviour reigns, and He rules the world with Truth and Grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His Love.

That is Joy to the world!


*”Corpsing” is a term in the theatre, for when an actor breaks character and starts laughing during a scene. Tim Conway and Harvey Korman were famous for corpsing during sketches on The Carol Burnett Show. During my brief acting career, I was notorious for corpsing in rehearsal, but only once came close to losing it during an actual show when I hit another actor in the head with a door when she was standing off-stage. We were just about to do an intense scene, and why she was standing behind the door (which she had never done up to that point) was never explained.
**Remember: when you take GOD out of GOOD, you’re left with 0.

 

The “come to Jesus moment” gets closer

We woke up this morning to the news that a tsunami had hit Indonesia, without warning. Unlike most tsunamis, which are triggered by earthquakes, experts are struggling to find out what set this one off. The most plausible theory being floated is that Anak Krakatau, the “child” of the famous volcano that blew up in 1883, erupted, causing an underwater landslide.

As we celebrate the first coming of Jesus Christ, the list of events and situations that Jesus told us would precede His Second Coming are becoming more numerous and the frequency and intensity are increasing. As I’ve said before, I’m not an end–times wonk, but you don’t have to be, to see the signs.

Of course, Jesus says that “a wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign” (Matthew 16:4), but guess what? This is a wicked and adulterous generation, so He’s given His followers a list of those signs, so that we don’t need to seek them, but so that we’ll know how short the time is, and step up our efforts to point people towards Him.

The signs are numerous, varied and wide-ranging. Climate change and its impact is but one of them, and if the enemy can keep people at one another’s throats over what to do about it and even whether it’s happening, they might miss that it’s part of a bigger picture. If people focus on the fact that the leader of one of the world’s superpowers is shockingly devoid of compassion and has hoodwinked professing Christians into supporting him, that, too, is a mis-direct to keep people from seeing what’s happening. And if scientists profess to be befuddled by an unpredicted tsunami and consign it to the “SH” file*, just as with the mysterious seismic event a few weeks ago, emanating from an island off Madagascar, one might be distracted from supposing that the things Jesus predicted are, for better or for worse, coming to pass and that it’s time to come to Jesus.

A “come to Jesus moment” is that time when one is pushed to the wall and has no choice but to change one’s ways. The world has hit that moment, and the enemy is doing his level best to confuse people as to what that change looks like. That’s where we come in, showing Jesus the best way possible: by living “Christ in us” — loving people and sharing our testimony.

Remember: the name of the game is not to point out how wicked and sinful people are, but to show there is a better way — and the only Way.


*Stuff Happens

Jesus: Child of faith and promise

Just as prophecies foretell things we’re seeing today, the Bible contains foreshadowing in one place of events that occur in other places.

They they [God and two angels with Him] said to [Abraham], “Where is Sarah your wife?” So he said, “Here, in the tent.”

And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.)

Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age, and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.”

— Genesis 18:9-14

Abraham certainly knew about faith, having packed up family, servants, household and belongings and left Ur to go to the place the Lord would show him. Now, there came the promise that they would have a son – and not by a surrogate mother, the way Ishmael was born, but by Sarah herself.

Yesterday, we talked about the trip Mary and Joseph took from Nazareth to Bethlehem: how Bethlehem was to be the place where the Messiah would be born, and how God used the decree from Caesar Augustus to make sure that would happen. The young couple were already taking it on faith that their Child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, now, they had one more act of faith to demonstrate: giving birth in a stable.

Sometimes, I’ve waxed fanciful about the idea that there was no room for them at the inn — that is, the innkeeper didn’t want a not-yet-married couple with pregnant girl staying in his respectable establishment: suggesting that Jesus knew what it was like to be on the receiving end of bigotry.

But a stable is less than sanitary and regardless of whether Jesus was born in the bleak midwinter, as tradition has it, or in the spring, as historians contend, it would have been COLD! Even though their hand was forced by the circumstances, Joseph and Mary would have had to have walked in faith that God would protect them through that time.

But is anything too hard for the Lord? He did see them through that night and fulfilled His promise, just as He did for Sarah and Abraham. In both cases, it was an act of faith to believe, and an act of faith to follow through — in Sarah’s and Abraham’s case, to “have pleasure” at their age, in order to conceive; with Joseph and Mary, it was first to believe that what they had heard from the Angel Gabriel was true, and then not to “have pleasure” until after Jesus was born.

The first event foreshadows the other.

And how big a hill o’ beans does this amount to for us? The fact that events in the Old Testament foreshadow events in the New Testament indicates that God has had His plans in the works since before the beginning of time. The earlier event gives us something to relate to, and the later event is invariably grander in scope than the earlier.

“Here’s the birth of the seed that I’ll call – but here comes the birth of the Saviour of everyone!”

“If you thought the Great Flood was big, just wait till you see the Revelation!”

So many things about Jesus’ birth were not guaranteed, as the world would see it. But it’s all the more clear that when God says He will do something, that’s all the guarantee we need.

Jesus’ birth: the foreshadowing

One of my favorite sermons (if I may say so, myself) is called “It Seemed Like A Bad Idea At The Time” (re-watching it now, I see that it was also called, “When They Began the Begat” — sort of a hat-tip to Cole Porter*, although it’s evident from the video that no one caught the reference), which dissects the circumstances surrounding the births of the people who make up Jesus’ lineage. Certainly, there were prophets and people who were instrumental in rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple of God, but there were also circumstances offensive to God: they involved harlotry, intermarriage, incest, adultery and even murder. And yet, the Saviour of humankind was descended from that line.

There’s something else striking about Jesus’ birth. Let’s go back to that passage from Luke we mentioned yesterday:

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place when Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

— Luke 2:1-4

Compare that with this:

Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house, and let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!

— Matthew 24:15-19 (my emphasis)

Jesus is telling His disciples about the events leading up to His return, warning of the danger pregnant women will face, having to flee, under that stress.

And Jesus Himself was born at a time of reckoning — the census ordered by Augustus, in which His mother was forced to re-locate: an 80-mile journey by donkey, while approaching her due date. Just as His lineage contained a series of black marks, His birth foreshadows the even greater Reckoning to come, when everyone will be called to account.

So what?

When Jesus talks about the hardships surrounding His return, He knows, from intimate experience, what He’s talking about. He knows temptation and how to resist it — with the help of the Holy Spirit. He knows about redemption, because His whole lineage is one long experiment in redemption from all kinds of sin. And He knows about “hanging in” during a terrifying situation: I can’t think of anything that would be more terrifying than an order from the emperor of your oppressors. A decree from Caesar would have had a significant “or else” attached to it. Saying, “Sorry, my wife’s pregnant and can’t travel. Can we mail it in?” would have been unacceptable. So will it be when He returns.

Jesus’ life, which we are to emulate, relying on the Holy Spirit to strengthen us, is not a series of theories and platitudes. He’s been there; He knows; and He shows us the Way.

 


*He wrote a song called “Begin the Beguine”. Or did I need to explain that?

A sombre pre-Christmas note

The other day, I was rocked by the news that a longtime acquaintance (we worked in radio news and often talked on the phone, but never met face-to-face) had died suddenly.

He was younger than I am, and that makes about a half-dozen friends of mine, my age or younger, who have died in the past five years. Only one of those deaths was not due to illness; three of the illnesses were unexpected and took my friends quickly, literally with no time to say goodbye.

It reinforces the point that, when the Big Sir calls your number, there’s nothing you can do about it.

Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 

So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’

But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’

So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

— Luke 12:16-21

We don’t know when that call will come — only God knows — so we need to re-assess where our treasure lies and what we call “important” in our lives.

As we approach Christmas, as we celebrate the fact that Jesus came to us, let’s remember why He came.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

He who believes in Him is not condemned: but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the only begotten Son of God.

— John 3:16-18

Think about that. You believe in Jesus, you are saved. You don’t believe in Jesus, you are condemned.

As I’ve said before, believing in Jesus is God’s way of making things incredibly simple for us. He wants us with Him through Eternity — we’re the one Creation of His that He made with His own hands, in His own image: why would He not want us with Him for all time? But He also loves us so much, He doesn’t want to coerce us: He wants us to have freedom to decide on our own to come to Him.

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

— John 14:6

And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

— John 6:40

“… the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

— John 6:37

There’s no equivocation; no “I am one of many ways” and no “The one who comes to Me — I’ll give them serious consideration.” And He also warns that anyone who tries to get through to God or claims he or she can show a different way, is a thief and a robber.

You don’t have to be learned – you just have to be willing. You don’t have to know all of the Word of God: establish the connection first, and the content will take care of itself.

So, through the tinsel and lights and presents and the never-ending debate over whether we should say, “Merry Christmas!”, let’s remember the main reason why that Baby was born in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago: because God loves all of us so much, He wants to ensure that we spend Eternity with Him, while giving us a single, easy-to-follow route.

With that in mind, let’s get back to the celebration!