25 days: my eyes have seen your salvation

A man named Simeon was in Jerusalem. He was righteous and devout. He eagerly anticipated the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Led by the Spirit, he went into the temple area. Meanwhile, Jesus’ parents brought the child to the temple so that they could do what was customary under the Law. Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. He said,

“Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word,because my eyes have seen your salvation. You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples. It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles and a glory for your people Israel.”

His father and mother were amazed by what was said about him. (Luke 2.25-33 CEB)

Did you notice it? Simeon’s delight is that the Lord’s Christ will bless not only Israel, but will be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.” And I really like that because … I’m a Gentile. This just makes me want to pray!

When will you dismiss me, your servant, Father? Will I go in peace? Not until the eyes of my soul have seen Jesus shape me more into your likeness from the inside out, I pray! Light you have revealed for me, and for light, I pray. You have surrounded me with your people, and for your glory, and so for their blessing, may I live and die. My eyes have seen your glory in the coming of my Lord. And so may I come to him every day before my days are done. Amen.

 

ct: the cross in Paul’s epistles (2)

So much of what he [the apostle Paul] says has passed into the common stock of Christian knowledge that it is difficult to estimate at all fully our debt to him. It comes as something of a surprise, for example, to find that, apart from the crucifixion narrative and one verse in Hebrews, Paul is the only New Testament writer to speak about ‘the cross.’ We find it difficult to talk for long about Jesus without mentioning ‘the cross’, and this is the measure of the way Paul has influenced all subsequent Christian vocabulary. We would image that there are many New Testament references to the death of Christ. But, outside of Paul, there are not. (Leon Morris, The Cross in the New Testament, pp.216-217)

25 days: glorifying & praising God

When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told. (Luke 2.15-20 CEB)

“… glorifying God and praising God for all they had heard and seen.”

And what exactly had they heard and seen? Angels announcing the birth of the world’s Savior and the newborn Savior-to-be lying in a manger. Clearly great faith is at work here.

And what have we seen and heard? Probably not any angels or Jesus himself with our own ears and eyes. But great faith is still at work. And by faith, we have seen far greater things! A life. A message. A cross. An empty tomb. An ascension to reign as Lord. Continued work. His story covering the earth. And the promise of his return.

Am I glorifying God and praising God for all I have heard and seen? Or is it sort of old hat to me and more like … muted?

Father in heaven, great you are! Beyond words to say. But to say, this is for what I pray. In the name of your Son, release my tongue and my life from the captivity into which I have placed them. To this end: that You may be lauded and praised forever and ever. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

ct: the cross in Paul’s epistles (1)

… the Christian has taken up a radically new position with regard to the flesh. He has ‘crucified’ it together with its passions and lusts (Gal. 5:24). He has put off the whole body of flesh (Col. 2:11), which means that he has rejected the whole concept of living according to the dictates of the flesh. He makes no provisions to fulfill its lusts (Rom. 13:14). He recognizes that it is worth destroying the flesh if so the spirit be saved (1 Cor. 5:5). He enjoys liberty, but he does not make than an excuse for pandering to the flesh (Gal. 5:13). Rather he walks in the Spirit (or by the Spirit) and does not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). … when the power of the Holy Spirit of God is operative within a man there is total renewal. That man is no longer “in the flesh” (Rom. 8:9). He is no longer dominated by his lower nature. He no longer lives to do his own will. In the power of the Spirit of God he lives to do the will of God. (Leon Morris, The Cross in the New Testament, pp.200-201)

25 days: praising God

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.”  Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” (Luke 2.8-14 CEB)

I love this text not just for what it says about Jesus, but for what it says about God our Heavenly Father.

  • Shepherds ranked low on their culture’s social scale yet they’re the ones to whom God first announced the Savior’s birth. God our Father seems to enjoy doing the unexpected, in turning things upside down.
  • The appearance and performance of the angelic choir is a bit of “shock and awe,” but the world’s Christ is born with no outward, personal radiance or splendor. Our God is anything but ostentatious, taking pleasure in being among us incognito.
  • Luke has already used the word “salvation” several times (1.69,71,77) and has referred to God (the Father) as our “Savior” (1.47), but his first use of the word “Savior” in reference to Jesus appears here (2.11). Our God likes to speak in sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle, ways, readily identifying Himself with Jesus.
  • The same words for what the angels did and called on people to do (“praising God” and “glory”) are the same words used to describe what the shepherds did (2.13b-14a,20). Our God revels in heaven and earth being one.
  • The fact titles are given here to Jesus that were normally reserved for the Roman emperor (e.g. – “Savior” and “Lord”) underscores the fact a choice must be made by all who encounter Jesus: serve him first or serve the current order, but you cannot do both. Our Father God is not passive, but active in challenging the status quo.
  • The good news of peace God’s angels announce is not the peace for which most people long, either a political peace or some sort of general, sentimental good will. Instead, it the peace of a right relationship with God. Clearly God our Father delights in giving us not what we want, but what we need most.

How else does the birth of Jesus challenge my presuppositions or expectations about God?

Father God, I love you for who you are and what you do. May that ever be clear to all in both subtle and obvious ways. Amen.

ct: the cross in John’s Gospel

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself.” (John 12:32) …

John is in no doubt that Jesus is a glorious Being. And the crucifixion does not alter this in any way. The crucifixion is no denial of the exaltation of Jesus. In fact, paradoxically, the cruifixion is the exaltation. Though to men it might seem the very depth of degradation, yet in His humiliation the Son of God made life available to men. His humiliation was the means to their salvation. The hour of his suffering is thus paradoxically the hour of His greatest glory. … In the fullest sense, the exaltation took place when the Son of God died for sinful men. John sees nothing to apologize for in the cross.

Sometimes he sees it in terms of glory. To some it might be so repulsive as to be a stumblingblock, but to him it is glorious as nothing else is glorious. (Leon Morris, The Cross in the New Testament, p.165-166,167)

25 days: she wrapped him snugly

Joseph went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom. (Luke 2.5-7 CEB)

It’s the ever so simple detail that embraces my mind.

“She … wrapped him snugly …”

It didn’t have to be said. It’s the sort of thing a mother needed to say.

“She … wrapped him snugly …”

In my mind’s eye, I can image Mary telling Luke as he interview her (cf. Luke 1:1-4), telling him with awe and joy inexpressible, in detail and rapture, what it was like to hold for the first time the Son of God.

If Mary cherished anything in her heart (cf. Luke 2.19,51), this is one of those moments.

“She … wrapped him snugly …”

I imagine the angels of heaven peering in on the wonder of it all and, well, wondering, seeking to examine all the goings on  (cf. 1 Peter 1.12).

“She … wrapped him snugly …”

And I wonder what God our Father was thinking. God is spirit, but if a spirit can smile, surely it was now, knowing that as surely as His Son was being embraced, even then, the world was being embraced by Him.

Father in heaven. Thank you. Hold me tight and let me embrace you forever! Amen.