The Hope of Christmas

It is that time of the year again. The temperature has dropped, the ground is covered in white snow. Or if you are in mid-Missouri, you could be experiencing spring time weather. The radio stations have playing Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman on repeat for the past month. Many people around the world are celebrating the Christmas season in some way or another. Although, not everyone is celebrating for the same reason.

If we were to turn on the television to get our definition of Christmas, it would seem to be a time when people give each other new cars with giant bows, diamonds rings, and shiny jewelry. If we were to walk into the grocery store to get our definition of Christmas, it would seem like a time when people consume large amounts of cookies, egg nog, and candy canes. If we were to go into a typical home to get our definition of Christmas, it would seem like a time when families put colorful lights on their landscaping, decorate trees with ornaments, and wait for a jolly man to come down a chimney with presents.

Who wouldn’t enjoy a new car, or eating lots of cookies, or decorating their home? But not everyone is able to buy gifts. Not everyone has the ability to go to the grocery store. Not everyone has a home to decorate. And not everyone has family to spend time with, or children to give gifts. Is there more to this season than what our eyes can see?

Where is the hope for the poor? Or the hope the homeless? Or the hope for the divorced parent? Or the hope for the childless? Or the hope for the single mother? Or the hope for the widow? Or the hope for the orphan?

The hope for the entire world is found in the breath of a baby in a manger.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

But not just a normal baby. God became flesh, born of a virgin woman. If it seems to you irrational and illogical that a baby could be born of a virgin, you are not alone. Even Mary herself questioned this saying. Even Joseph, her soon to be husband, sought to end the plans of marriage. How could this be that a virgin could give birth to a son?

I was a supernatural miracle.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14)

This is an act that was only possible by a sovereign and all powerful God and Creator. The one true God who created everything that exists, came down from heaven to fulfill His promise to redeem for Himself sinners. This redemption is only possible through the very child who was born that night, namely Jesus Christ.

Without the incarnation, the cross on which Jesus died would become powerless. Without the cross, there would be no resurrection hope for the world. But the prophesy was fulfilled. The promised Messiah has come. And Jesus has risen from the grave.

Jesus Christ, who is the eternal Son of God in human flesh, fully God and fully man, came into this world to do what we are incapable of doing. He lived a life in perfect obedience to the Law, suffered and died on the cross in the place of sinners (bearing in full their sin, guilt, and judgement), arose in victory from the grace (defeating sin and death once for all), and now sits at the right hand of God the Father where He reigns forevermore.

There is salvation in no one else.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

This is the sure hope that Christians celebrate not just on this day, not just every Sunday, but every day. God coming to us, because we were incapable of coming to Him.

I am writing this specifically to those that do not believe in any of this, because I want you to share in this hope. I want you to believe. I want you to receive this gift. The very gift of salvation that I did not have until three years ago. If your hope is not in Christ, if Jesus is not your Lord, if your sin has not been completely forgiven and covered by His righteousness alone, it is my prayer that you would repent from your sin and turn to Christ for your salvation.

Why?

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

What do we need to be saved from? The truth is that we need to be saved from God. The problem is that God is good, and we are not. No amount of good deeds will make up for our sin against an infinite God. Everyone alive is guilty before a holy God, apart from the work of Christ being counted on your behalf.

You can be fully forgiven, relieved of your guilt, reconciled to God, and spend eternity with Him, where there will be no more tears, no more death, no more homeless, no more widows, no more loneliness. Rather, creation will be restored with eternal unity and joy and pleasure in the presence of our Lord forever.

This is good news, not good advice.

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:40)

The gift of salvation was only made possible by Jesus Christ coming into this world that very night in Bethlehem. This is the joy and hope of Christmas available to all those that will believe. May your Christmas be filled with this eternal joy found in Jesus Christ alone.

In You Alone Do I Hope

My soul is like a fainting tree, seeking for the flowing water.

The rush of the water can be heard, but my roots can barely touch.

O Lord, increase my faith, and show me the way to your deep well.

So my roots would run deep, and I would be nourished by your help.

My heart aches for your light, that reveals your majectic glory.

Those beaming rays of hope from your heavens, which guide me to everlasting joy.

How long, O my God, will my heart toil in this mire of brokenness.

I cry out to you day and night, that this burden I hold would release. 

And the truth of your word would satisfy, my deepest longings be complete.

In you alone do I hope, your promises are true and unfailing. 

November 30th, 2013

img_0026On November 30th, 2013, I began to read the bible, and my life was completely changed. Although I said that I was a Christian, I came to realize that there was something missing.

So when I was asked, “Do you have a bible?”, the purpose of that question was much deeper than the physical possession of a bible. What I really heard was, “If you say that you are a Christian, why do you not have the desire to read God’s word? Why do you believe what you believe? Do your beliefs align with God’s word? Do you really believe that this is God’s word? How does your life reflect what you believe?”

What it really came down to was the fact that there was a disconnect between the way that I lived and what I said that I believed.

From the outside, I may have looked like a Christian. I was baptized. I went through confirmation. I went to church on Sundays. I took communion. I attended Sunday school. I went on retreats. I went to Christian camps. I observed Christian holidays and celebrations. And I am extremely grateful for being brought up in a family that surrounded me with these things. But the truth is that doing these things does not make someone a Christian.

A change of heart is needed.

I may have seemed like a nice person, but in reality I was in rebellion. I may have done generous things for others, but in reality I was unfit for any good work. I may have not been as bad as that other person, but in reality I was dead in my sin. I may have seemed full of happiness and life, but in reality I was without hope.

If I had died before this day, people probably would have said I was in a better place, in heaven. But in reality my sin was not forgiven and covered by the righteousness of Jesus, and I would have been justly experiencing eternal punishment. This is a very hard truth for anyone to accept. No one wants to think that they are a bad person, or even that they are going to hell.

As I read the word of God, my eyes were opened to see myself for who I truly was. I saw my sin, my need for a savior, and that I was incapable of saving myself. I was completely broken. At the same time, I saw that there was hope. I saw Jesus for who He truly is. It was then that I realized that Jesus Christ is the only way to be reconciled to God. It was then that I repented of my sin and believed, and by His grace I was saved at the age of 30.

My heart was changed.

Someone may look at my life over the past three years and say that I have straightened it out. That I decided to stop doing some bad things, and have grown up or have matured. Or that I started to take Christianity more seriously. Or that I became more religious. But that is not what has happened. I was not a Christian before, and this wasn’t a change that I did on my own. When God saves someone, they are a new creation. It is fully by His own work and power, no more and no less.

This is what Christians are celebrating as we enter into the month of December. It is around this time of the year that we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Without Jesus coming into this world, becoming fully man and fully God, we would be without hope.

He lived the perfect and righteous life that we are called to live, but cannot. He satisfied the holy wrath on the cross which our sin deserves. He died, was buried, and rose from the grave, defeating death. He ascended into heaven, declaring the completed work of salvation, and the glory of His name.

This gift of salvation is offered to all who repent of their sin, and place their full trust in the name of Jesus Christ alone. Of all of the gifts that this world can offer, this one is infinitely greater.

The most important question that anyone could answer was asked by Jesus himself, “Who do you say that I am?” This is the question that I was faced with three years ago. This is the question that revealed who I truly was. The answer is found in His word.

Do you have a bible?

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:40)