Sunday, December 24, 2006

Born a Child and Yet a King

On this day, the 4th Sunday of Advent, I pray these thoughts find you doing well. Moreover, I pray that the friendships amongst those who identify with our Saviour can become bonds of encouragement, exhortation, edification, and cooperation as we seek to be a local and global community faithful to follow Him.

In this season, the reality of the incarnation of God the Son absolutely floors me! Advent, the “Happy New Year” span of the Christian calendar, is a time for anticipating and remembering His birth and future return and it humbles me as I am confronted with knowing that God showed up amongst a people in a world the Father seeks to bless, redeem and restore.

We often look to Luke 1 and 2, Matthew 1 and 2, or John 1 for an account of the Christmas Story; however, I can’t pass over the letter of Paul to the church in Philippi when mediating on the Incarnation of Christ. In Philippians we read:

Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11; NLT)

Jesus was born a child and yet He grew through childhood, adolescence, and into man hood …God taking on flesh and dwelling among us. Some might say His miraculous birth and becoming human yet remaining God is the end of Christmas story…the culmination of the progression of the season we call Advent. But is it?

Can we read of the shepherds keeping watch and the angelic heralds in Luke 2 and not continue on to read Luke 4:14-21 and the remainder of the gospel according to Dr. Luke? Certainly Christ was born a child and placed in the manger; however, he did not remain there! He grew.

Luke 2:52 reads, “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Later, Luke 4 verse 14 and following begins:

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:14-21; NIV)

Born a child. He became a man. God did this! He chose this…even planned this incarnation! Nonetheless, at Christmas, it seems we’re confronted with the difficult task of sorting out the reality of Christmas from the clutter that clouds that reality. The humility and simplicity of the stable are somehow confused with the clamor, indulgence and, sometimes the selfishness, of the season. The stillness of the quiet Bethlehem night is mingled with the din of shopping malls, parties, the delivery and wrapping of on-line purchases, and increased holiday traffic. In this hullabaloo, can we not recover the awe of the incarnation?

At this time, and at all times, can we not purpose to live as He lived? Will we, like Him, “preach good news to the poor…proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind ..proclaim release to the oppressed and the year of the Lord’s favor”?

The great reality of Christmas and the incarnation, which is the glory of the Lord being revealed, is obscured by so much tinsel, activity and commercialism that it can be challenging to see amidst the clutter; however, may it not be further obscured by us His church. May we embrace His call, follow His lead, and obey his instruction. May we accept the calling of living our lives -collectively and individually - out of the fruit His incarnation, glory, and life in such a way others and we may encounter him as in our midst today and everyday until His return.

There is hymn that I often ponder, especially during Advent. It goes a step or two towards pulling these thoughts together into a proper closing for this post. It’s a hymn by Charles Wesley written in 1745 and it reads like this:

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Blessings and Peace to you. May we live as He lived…moreover, may we live as He would live today if He were us?

It is certainly good to recall the manger and celebrate His advent here in space and time. Nonetheless, let us not lose sight of his growth, life, instruction, cross, resurrection, glory, and approaching return. God the Father has elevated Christ to the place of highest honor. I pray we do the same and live accordingly.

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