Once again, December has arrived and almost automatically our thoughts turn to Christmas. Perhaps you have already been thinking about it. We wrapped presents at the beginning of November, so our minds have been on Christmas for some time. For the record, I don’t claim to have contributed much to this level of organisation!
Aside from our traditional desire to give gifts, spend time with friends and family and enjoy a break, Christmas is a time to think about the Bible message that the season represents. It is summed up in the verse: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’, 1 Timothy 1. 15. Thinking recently about the fact that the Lord Jesus came into the world reminded me that:
- His birth at Bethlehem was not His beginning, because He was ‘in the beginning… with God’, John 1. 1. He is ‘from everlasting’, Micah 5. 2, meaning that there was no point when He did not exist! The Lord Jesus is eternal.
- His birth marked the time when the Son of God ‘was made flesh’, John 1. 14. A better translation is ‘became flesh’; it was a voluntary act. It involved uniting Godhead and Manhood in one Person.
- His birth revealed God to mankind: ‘God was manifest in the flesh’, 1 Tim. 3. 16. ‘Manifest’ means ‘to make visible’ or ‘known.’ Through the Lord Jesus, we learn of the wisdom, power, and love of God.
- His birth was an act of humility. He ‘was made a little lower than the angels’, Heb. 2. 9. Paul wrote to the Philippians: ‘He made Himself of no reputation… and was made in the likeness of men’ and ‘He humbled Himself,’ Phil. 2. 7, 9.
These facts help us appreciate just who the Lord Jesus is. But it is also wonderful to consider why he came. He came with a purpose, ‘to save sinners’, 1 Timothy 1. 15. He came to die on the cross, to take the punishment for sin. He came so that we could be released from the power of sin and saved from the punishment for sin. He came so that we might receive eternal life. He came to save.
As your thoughts turn to Christmas, what do you think of the One who came into the world so that you might be saved? Call upon Him, who is now alive in heaven. Turn from your sin and ask Him to save you. That would make 2020 an unforgettable Christmas for you, and the effects will last for eternity!
‘Stretch out your hand’
This is now an unfamiliar thing – the common courtesy of a handshake as that universal greeting. It takes many forms: from the classic ‘formal grasp’ position to the ‘matey clench’ technique, and secret coded versions invented and perfected on the playground. At its heart, the handshake (or the Covid-proofed fist pumps and elbow bumps) is a symbol of connection: two parties formerly separated have come together in a mutually visual and tangible expression of acceptance of one with the other.
It is (or was) so normal that when we read about examples of this in the Bible, they might at first be overlooked. Glossed on by as the reader anticipates some miracle or sign as the main event of a chapter. But pause for a moment, and see who Jesus stretched out his hands to in Mark 1 v 41 ‘moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said “I will; be clean”’. I wonder when was the last time this leper had someone stretch out their hand to him? It’s no speculation to think it might well have been many years, such was the stigma associated with that disease.
As we read the gospels, we could be forgiven for getting used to the Lord reaching out to others, many and varied as they were. These events become frequent as the writers evidence His claims to deity with accounts of divine power and intervention in people’s lives, such was His compassion towards those in need.
The purpose of the gospel writers is not only to tell us who Jesus was (and is), but also to invite a response from their readers (which includes you, by the way). One man Mark tells us of in chapter 3 vs 1-6. He is a man with a withered hand, and Jesus invites him to “stretch out your hand” in verse 5. He promptly does so, ‘and his hand was restored’. The miracle is something in itself, but don’t miss that there is a purpose in the selection of this (as with many others) particular miracle – Mark is telling us that this man grasped physically something that those around him could not grasp spiritually – that Jesus Christ was both Son of God and Son of Man (something that Mark makes clear within only the first two chapters).
The moment of mutual connection between two people who shake hands is a meeting of minds and hearts, and the gospel is no different. God in Christ, as it were, stretches and holds out his hand to us, waiting for us to respond and stretch out our own hand to meet with His. What did it take for that man to stretch out his hand? It took faith. A step of faith that Jesus had the power to heal him. It takes faith on our part to believe (with good reason) that Jesus was (and is) who the Bible tells us he was (and is). He is the Man who died that we might live, if we too will ‘stretch out our hand’ to His.
Jon Bustard, Young Christians’ Camp Leader
Young Christians’ Camp has gone online this year!
Videos are being posted each day this week (8-14 August) on the Young Christians Norfolk Camp Facebook group.
If you are not a member of that group but would like to see them, please get in touch and we can let you know how to join.