Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Christmas Message from Peter Jensen

Christmas Lights Up Our Darkness

There are some people who carry cheerfulness and hope with them wherever they go. They light up a room by entering it; they create confidence by their sheer presence. Sometimes, when things appear at their most grim, the appearance of such a person can turn everything around.

Humanity has always faced problems, such as hunger, sickness and war. As 2008 ends, we are especially worried about climate change and the financial downturn.

But our deepest problem remains sin, and the consequence of sin, death. We may judge ourselves lightly. But the proper judgement for human life belongs to God. The law of God is not like human law, easily evaded. It is a law which reaches into our very hearts. Our deeds are weighed; our words are weighed; our thoughts are weighed. The verdict of the Bible on our words, thoughts and deeds is negative. We are moral failures.

More. We are spiritual failures. Our sin has alienated us from the living God, our Creator. It is as if we are divorced from him, with all the fault lying on our side. We do not want to live in his world in his way. We choose, rather, the liberty of disobedience and self-will. Even though such choices lead demonstrably to misery and pain, we prefer to rule our own life rather than to allow God to have his rightful place. The problem of atheism in the final analysis is not intellectual, but moral and spiritual.

As morally and spiritually weakened creatures, we also succumb to cultural pressures, or what the Bible calls ‘the world’. At the same time, we are vulnerable to the assaults of spiritual wickedness. The Bible regards the devil as ‘the father of lies’. In his activity against the human race he is especially skilled in deception and disinformation. He will do all he can to divide us from each other.

The spiritual corruption of human speech can be seen today, often on the anonymous blogs which malign and defame. We see here the new Babel, the way in which wonderful human technology is used to assault heaven itself.

All in all, the human party is not a pretty sight. Not pretty until a certain person enters the room and joins us.

I have seen a fair number of Christmases come and go by now. Its sheer wonder only makes me more and more glad. Jesus Christ has entered the room. He has joined the human race. He has not done so as an alien visitor, but as one of us. He has not done so as a fully formed adult. He has chosen to be born as the most vulnerable and dependent of human beings, a baby. He has chosen to go through each stage of our experience, but without sin. He has determined to do what Adam so obviously failed to do: he has been committed from the beginning to obey the law and will of God, to live human life as it was intended to be lived.

I think one of the most precious sentences ever written is this: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15). It is precious in both its parts. You could say that Jesus was born to show us how to live. That is true. You could say that he was born in order to teach us the facts of the world. That is true. But the best thing of all to say is that he was born in order to save. If we simply stopped with his teaching ministry, we may flatter ourselves that we can order our own lives and save ourselves. But we cannot do this. We need to be saved. And he is the peerless Saviour.

I also like the second part of the verse. The Apostle Paul, the author, locates himself as the foremost of sinners. There is no one worse. If he could be saved, then so can we.

Occasionally we become aware of the scope of our sin. Sometimes we have committed very grave sins indeed, sins of which we are now deeply ashamed. But, however far we have strayed from the will of God into sin and evil, we cannot go further than the foremost of sinners. We may be assured of forgiveness.

“I am a great sinner,” said John Newton, “but Christ is a great Saviour”. Have a happy Christmas – happy in the knowledge that when things were at their most desperate a Saviour entered the world and no one is too far gone for him to call back to the joy of life.

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