We need a Saviour
Christianity is about what God does for you. It is less about what you do for God. 'Through this world of toil and snares, If I falter, Lord, who cares? Who with me my burden shares? None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee'. Christmas is about what God does for you. It is less about what you do for God. 'Good Christian folks, rejoice, With heart and soul and voice, Now ye need not fear the grave: Peace! Peace! Jesus Christ was born to save, Calls you one and calls you all To gain His everlasting hall, Christ was born to save Christ was born to save'. Baptism is about what God does for you. It is less about what you do for God. 'O give Thine angels charge, good Lord, Them safely in Thy way to guard; Thy blessing on their lives command, And write their names upon Thy hand'. Professing Faith is about what God does for you. It is less about what you do for God. 'When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, Than when we’d first begun'.
We need a Saviour. And the great glorious good news is that there is a Saviour, even Christ the Lord. 'See amid the winter’s snow, Born for us on earth below, See, the gentle Lamb appears, Promised from eternal years'. There is a great text in the Old Testament from Genesis 18:25. 'Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?' It was said by Abraham as he pleaded for the city of Sodom to be spared God’s anger. Abraham challenged God that he should not destroy good people along with the bad. God had to be above that. God had to be perfect in justice. Abraham asked God that if there were fifty good people in the city would he spare it and God said he would. Abraham haggled God down to ten and God agreed to spare the city if there were ten good people in it. There were not ten good people in that city and it was not spared. But let us see things from the New Testament perspective within the context of the Covenant of grace, forgiveness and love offered to all in the child of Bethlehem and thereafter in His life’s work, death and resurrection. Most human parents would do anything for their children. They wish for them nothing but the best that is possible. Many are selfless in their lifelong devotion to their children. In the immediate aftermath of March’s earthquake in Japan, search and rescue people were looking for survivors. As they peered into crushed buildings and homes, one saw the body of a young woman in an unusual position. She had died while kneeling in the way that Muslim men pray when they make their heads touch the ground. As they tried to bring her body out, they saw a bundle below her in that space her arched back had created. The bundle was her baby and the little child was alive. There was a note which read 'If you survive, know that I love you'. The message of Christmas is that if we humans can be so selfless, God must also be so and more. 'Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?' More than right. Self giving love. Incarnation. Mary, Joseph, Bethlehem. Birth. Salvation.
This is not a story about a conquering hero - of a great world hero who bent humanity to his own purposes. There have been such people. We know their names in history. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Mohammad, Genghis Khan, Hitler, Stalin, Mao. They had their day and were feared by many in their generation. That is not the story of Christmas. There are many religions, and many gods in human history. There were the fertility gods and goddesses of the ancient middle east such as Astarte and Baal. There were and remain the many gods of Hinduism, grotesque amalgamations of human and elephant images among them. Beings with ten arms and legs and more. There are 330 million Hindu gods. The great atheistic empires of the 20th century made of each other idols and substitute gods. Our own entertainment western culture today makes small gods of singers and footballers.
We need a Saviour. And it is beyond our human capacity to have invented Jesus. This is Incarnation - our Maker joining our human condition on this planet. The central themes are humility, peace and love. Also vulnerability, risk and danger. There is no more dependent creature on earth than the human new born child. And that is how our Maker identified with us, took on our flesh and blood and lived out our life in Jesus. 'He came down to earth from Heaven, Who is God and Lord of all, And His shelter was a stable, And His cradle was a stall; With the poor, and mean, and lowly, Lived on earth our Saviour holy'. It is an extraordinary and unimaginable story - but it is not a fairy story - it is a true story. The humility at the heart of Christmas is the humility that is at the heart of every genuine Christian life. This is a distinct characteristic and quality which Christianity contributes to world values.
God did not create humanity to leave us to fend for ourselves. God claims his creation. God does not let us wander off without seeking us out like the Good Shepherd. It is in our human nature to reject God and seek to live as we please and do what we want to do. This wilful rebellion is the cause of all our suffering and loss. But God loves you. In Jesus God guarantees the forgiveness of your sins and your eternal life and salvation. God is with you throughout your earthly journey, God claims you as his own. God calls you. And God has something for you to do for him. That is the Christian equation. We are asked to share in God’s redeeming purposes for humanity by witnessing to Jesus Christ and serving Him all our days. It is a central, necessary and essential part of the Christian equation that we take God’s part and go onto God’s side to make this world a better place. We do that first by allowing Jesus Christ a place in our own hearts and lives. That brings an improvement to our own condition. We become new creatures in Christ. We are then liberated to think of others and seek to be of use and help to them in some way. There is great rudeness and abuse in daily life today. Christians can make a difference by acting differently. Joining, attending and becoming involved in a local Church is the way to grow in Christian faith and understanding. Some people call themselves Christian though they never come to Church. Thus they do not grow in Christian maturity and make little or no contribution to the ongoing life and witness of Christ’s Church. Here is the means of learning and of discovery of the unquantifiable riches that are in Jesus Christ. This requires a lifelong commitment. No-one arrives at being a Christian. It is always a work in progress. It is life long learning. Life long service. Life long discipleship. It has that edge - that liveliness - that vitality - that fullness of Spirit - that blessing - that peace - that hope.
Today we have baptised Logan into Jesus Christ. Though it may not seem that he is much different from other children not so baptised. A promise has been kept and a promise has been made. God has kept his promise and we have made a promise. The New Covenant has been sealed again. Today we have witnessed a profession of faith, a commitment made to join Christ’s Church, and a lifelong promise given to follow, serve and witness to Jesus Christ. This is God’s faithfulness visible before your eyes. To love and to own his child - not in a distant or remote way - but to be involved - caring - providential - generous in spiritual gifts and calling. Offering the companionship of Jesus to Rhona all her days. Giving her the inexhaustible possibilities of Christian life.
This is Christianity’s purpose and this is the meaning of Christmas. 'Still the night, Holy the night, Son of God, O how bright, Love is smiling from thy face, Strikes for us now the hour of grace, Saviour since thou art born, Saviour since thou art born'.