Good News, Bad News

john-1-12-precious-childChristmas is a season when we try to focus on joy, rightly so. The story of a Babe in Manger catches our imagination. The songs of angels in the sky makes us want to sing, too. Wise men who come with gifts for a new King, inspire us to worship.  But, let’s not tell the in a way that ignores the whole truth.  Jesus came into the world to save us. That is the good news.

There is the ‘rest of the story’ that ought to be as compelling as the love. An old man who blessed the infant Jesus in the temple courts of Jerusalem a few days after He was born had insight to understand that Jesus’ entry into His Creation had many implications. “Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” (Luke 2:34-35, NLT)  Yes, Christmas is good news and bad news.

For Jesus’ mother, His birth was the fulfillment of a divine promise. She was included in the Divine Plan for the salvation of the world, the defeat of evil, and the bearer of the One who held out the invitation to Eternal life. What joy! Yet, she also would stand at the foot of the Cross 3 decades after that amazing night of His birth and weep at the awful sight of her Son made the Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world.

For humanity from that time to this there are two sides to the Gospel.  John explains that “to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12, NLT)  We dance with delight in that hope, and yet, we realization that if there is reconciliation with our Father, there must also be separation. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.” (John 3:18-19, NLT)

One of the great issues about Jesus that we wrestle with is His claim to be the Way, the Truth, the Life.  He did not say He was a way among many.  That is implied in many tellings of the Christmas story, but it is a telling that ignores the whole of the Scripture.

He claims to be the only Savior and He is! So, what will we do with this good and bad news?

Let us not make the mistake of some who become modern Pharisees who ‘thank God that they are not like others;’  spiritually proud, so ready to condemn others who they regard as outside of God’s family. Nor can we airbrush the unpleasantness of the Truth with some mistaken idea of tolerance that ignores the true identity of Jesus.  Rather, we let the amazing love that is given to us only because of grace humble us. The fact that we are who we are, beloved children of God, has nothing to do with our merit. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV)  We are recipients of a gift. Knowing that, we love with the love we have been given.

“At the heart of the Christian’s view of spiritual reality is a man who gave his life in sacrifice for people who did not believe in him, a man who died asking for forgiveness for the people who were killing him. Therefore, Christianity is an exclusive claim, but it is the most inclusive exclusive claim because it wants you to exclusively believe in this man who died for his enemies, and asks you to love and care for yours.” (Timothy Keller)  Keller is oh so right to insist that a true understanding of the Savior and His gift of salvation does not make us intolerant. He makes us people who care most deeply for the world around us with the same kind of love that we have been given in Him!

The Nativity became the dividing line of time for the world and a moment of decision for the world. We can respond to the Spirit’s invitation, believe the truth, and live; or we can reject and remain alienated from our Father, destined for judgment.  I want to ask two questions of you today – first, have you accepted the Gift?  Humbly, faithfully, without if’s, but’s, or maybe’s – will you accept the Savior’s invitation to Life?  Second, if you are beloved, alive in Christ, are you faithfully loving those around you, extending the offer of salvation, withholding judgment that belongs only to God?

Here is a word from the Word.  May it be Good News for you today. He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn’t even notice. He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him. But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves. These are the God-begotten, not blood-begotten, not flesh-begotten, not sex-begotten. The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.” (John 1:10-14, The Message)

_______

Joy To The World (Unspeakable Joy)

Joy to the world the Lord is come

Let earth receive her King

Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room

And heaven and nature sing

And heaven and nature sing

And heaven and heaven and nature sing

 

Joy to the world the Savior reigns

Let all their songs employ

While fields and floods rocks hills and plains

Repeat the sounding joy

Repeat the sounding joy

Repeat repeat the sounding joy

 

Joy unspeakable joy

An overflowing well

No tongue can tell

Joy unspeakable joy

It rises in my soul

Never lets me go

 

He rules the world with truth and grace

And makes the nations prove

The glories of His righteousness

And wonders of His love

And wonders of His love

And wonders wonders of His love

 

Chris Tomlin | Ed Cash | George Frideric Handel | Isaac Watts | Matt Gilder

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Vamos Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

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