REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 55: Christmas Visitors.
I have always enjoyed visitors. Some, like my grand-father, were expected each Sunday for lunch. Others came unexpectedly, and even though they came bearing a bucketful of chokoes [nothing was ever thrown out in the 1960’s!] were [and continue to be] welcome at our place.
Christmas is about the most wonderful visitor of all time. Who would have thought that the eternal Lord of glory [John 1:1-14, 1 Cor 2:8], the Creator and Sustainer of the universe [Col 1:15-18, Heb 1:1-4] should pitch His tent among us [John 1:14], as one of us, fully human and fully Divine [Heb 2:14-18]. We are the visited planet. It intrigues, and saddens me that we get excited about and highly prize pieces of moon rock or meteor dust, because they might teach us about the origins of the universe, when He came and lived amongst us, just 24 average lifetimes ago.
The conspiracy of neglecting the evidence before us is surprisingly unscientific [given how we prize the scientific enterprise and method]. And is repeated every Christmas. Why so? We keep on pretending [for the sake of the children we convince ourselves] and perpetrating the fanciful lie of the mythical visitor from the North Pole, all the time neglecting the body of evidence for the visitation of God the Son to our planet. And why do we do it? It does not make any sense, especially since we are glad to accept the public holidays, gifts, family visits and general bonhomie. But it makes even less sense when even an atheist like H G Wells, could write” I am a historian, I am not a believer, but this penniless preacher from Galilee is irresistibly the centre of history and commented about His influence: that you can tell the size of the ship by the size of the wake it leaves behind. A few years ago Matthew Parris wrote As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God [The Times, 27/12/2008]. It is worth googling.
We had a very enjoyable Christmas last Saturday with our two WA families and the joke from my cracker ran what disease do you get at Christmas? The answer tinsillitus! Spot on don’t you think! Methinks it is because we cannot bear too much reality. To acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the key to the universe and that He visited because we are hopelessly lost [in our affluence and refusal to square up to His person, claims and demands, given as was His death in our place on the cross, for our good] might mean humbling ourselves and copping some flak from friends. And what of the pandemic year we have had, can Christmas help us with that? In many ways including:
We are so clearly loved by God who willingly sent His Son who gladly came amongst us. His was a rescue operation which from the time He came has been resisted by those He came to save [John 1:12-13, Luke 13:34-35]. There is no love like this: it is not sentimentality since it deals with our sins ever so justly [Rom 5:8, 1 Jn 1:8-9, 4:9-10]. Whatever our losses or sadnesses through covid-19, they do not lessen the love of God toward us in Christ [Rom 8:28-39].
Because He came and took our humanity to Himself He continues to understand our weaknesses, temptations and sadness. They can be brought to Him in absolute confidence, and faced with His help, sympathy and kindness. No person need ever be alone in life if they invite Him to be their Saviour and Lord [Heb 4:14-16 makes this plain].
Jesus understands our grief at another’s death. His step-father Joseph and friend Lazarus died. We are not alone and are understood. He can be trusted as we face our death. We can rejoice in Howard Guinness words: upon a life I did not live, upon a death I did not die; another’s life, another’s death, I stake my whole eternity [Jn 5:24, 11:25-26].
But we also know that He will come again and bring in the New Heavens and New Earth where the pains, injustices and disappointments of this life will cease. Passages like Titus 2:11-15 set this out with economy of words and clarity. No pandemics or death in that Kingdom, and grace to help us live Godly lives now in this sin saturated world. Covid-19 is a reminder, as is our own sinfulness [be it ingratitude, envy, unbelief, pride, greed or the like] that all is not well in our world [just as it is not, if we are honest, within ourselves]. The most reasonable response to these pointers is to assume that it is not God’s fault but our own. Doing things the same way [like perpetuating the Santa myth over and above the Christmas truth] shows us up as best foolish, at worst wilful. More so if there is a well proven and demonstrated other way that remains on offer whilst ever we are alive. Once accepted as our Saviour we are able to experience the sheer pleasure of His visit, not just for lunch but day by day. The wait for Him [from Heaven or to meet Him when we die] is nothing like the anxious wait in the doctors or dentists surgery, but of the joyful expectation of a loved one’s visit. All our Christmas’s come at once, and remain forever. This beloved Visitor will never leave us in life, stand beside through death and [most importantly] with us at the judgement, ushering us safely into His Father’s house, the home of righteousness [2 Pet 3:13]. No pandemic need rob us of His presence, purpose and peace since: Christ Has Revealed In Simple Terms the Means of Attaining Salvation.
Peter Brain 22nd December, 2020