I have nothing new to say. In fact, the things that are on my heart and mind this morning are the same sorts of things I wrote here in this space last year. For instance, last night was the children’s Christmas program at my church and my heart was just as full of gratitude as it was last year when I wrote:
It was a good service, nothing new or innovative, just the sweet sounds (and adorable antics) of young children singing of the Christmas baby, Jesus, God-becoming-man.
There in the former office space turned church meeting space, without a single Christmas decoration nor any hanging of the green nor any of the usual accoutrements of church Christmas programs, I worshiped. I rejoiced. And yes, I laughed some (I may be partial, but the kids at our church are some kind of cute). And I thought to myself, “This is church. My church. My church family, my church home.”
Certainly the idea was not new to me. I know church is not the building nor the programs nor the Sunday school and not even the Wednesday night suppers (though I must admit those things are sometimes missed when absent). Church is the people, the body of Christ, the family of believers I am called to love in community. I get that. I’ve gotten that. That Sunday night I realized it anew as I was moved to gratitude for these my fellow sojourners.
I used to think that people who split from other churches, for whatever reason, and began a church plant did so out of fiery passion and fervent zeal. That’s what I used to think, but now I know that passion and zeal sustain for time; after that it is mostly work. Hard work. Decisions about where to meet and what to call yourselves and whether there will be enough money–these questions and more kept me up at night. We none of us had any real idea of what we were doing, thus relying heavily on the Lord’s direction and the support of each other.
And let me just say that the Lord has been incredibly faithful to us. We have seen His provision over and over and over again, both financially and logistically, but also as He knits our hearts together with common vision and brotherly love…
Ditto. The Lord, He is faithful and good. Last year, this year, and forever, His steadfast love endures.
Not such pleasant reading. In fact, I am tempted to push aside this picture of the Lord’s sovereign wrath and His judgment of sin. It’s not pretty. It’s not pleasant. It doesn’t make me feel good. Rather, if I am honest, I am sometimes uncomfortable with a God who, well, judges, and that judgment carrying such dire consequences.
But then I turn to the gospel of John and there I read of Jesus’ crucifixion and there I see the Lord’s glorious provision for His righteous judgment. Certainly reading the prophets reminds me of my own sin and its serious repercussions; like those to whom the prophets prophesied, I too deserve the Lord’s wrath. I’ve sinned, grievously so, and my sin condemns me to death.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved me, satisfied His own judgment through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. Even when I was dead in my sin, lost, undone, doomed, He made me alive in Christ and it is by grace I am saved!
So, I can read Amos and Habbukuk and rejoice that though the Lord’s judgment is sure, His grace prevails in the person of Jesus Christ, glory to His name!
Ditto. How great is His grace poured out on a sinner like me! This Christmas season, as we consider the nativity and the birth of Jesus, God-made-man, may we not forget the depth of our sin and our just punishment that was laid on Him, the Savior, Redeemer, and Lord. The cross makes Christmas worth celebrating. Thanks be to God for the indescribable Gift of His Son!