Christ, the King–Christmas 2016

The word Christ has been so thoroughly associated with the name of Jesus that one might think it was His surname.   Carolyn Jones.  Ken Smith.  Jesus Christ.   But, of course, it isn’t.  The word Christ comes from the Greek word in the New Testament, Christos which was translated from the Hebrew word in the Old Testament, Messiah.  Both the Greek and the Hebrew are terms that refer to one who is anointed or set apart by God for a special task.  It might be a prophet or a priest or a king.  The N.T. refers to Jesus as God’s anointed.  He is God’s final word to the world and His last prophet.  He is our high priest who made the final and only acceptable sacrifice to God for our sins.  He is the Messiah, the Christ, the King to whom God has given all power and authority and who will reign forever over the Kingdom of God.

At Christmas we remember the birth of Jesus, but our Christmas carols rarely sing of the birth of Jesus without also referring to Him as King.  Joy to the world, the Lord is come, Let earth receive her King.  Hark the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King.  O come all ye faithful..come and behold Him born the King..

And often they tell of His birth and move our vision on through to His glorious kingdom in the new heavens and the new earth.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heavens all gracious King!
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

The birth of Jesus was only the beginning of the revelation of God’s Son to the world.  In fact, when Jesus was born and even through His years of growing in wisdom and stature, of those who knew Mary and Joseph or personally knew Jesus, very few recognized Him as anything more than the son of Mary or the son of Joseph, the carpenter or Jesus of Nazareth.

But to a few, glimpses of his true identity, as God’s anointed one, were revealed.  First to Mary—He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, the angel said.  After Mary conceived, she went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. And a glimpse of Jesus’ identity was revealed to Elizabeth and to John the Baptist while he was still in his mother’s womb—for when the sound of Mary’s greeting reached Elizabeth’s ears, the baby leaped in her womb for joy.

And of course, it was revealed to Joseph and Zacharias and to the shepherds and the wise men who came seeking the one who was born King of the Jews.  And it was revealed by the Holy Spirit to the old man, Simeon, that he would not see death until he beheld the Lord’s Christ.  And it was revealed to Anna, the prophetess.

After Jesus was baptized and He began His earthly ministry of teaching and healing, many, many more saw glimpses of His glory, power, and majesty.  His disciples, the women who followed Him, many who received healing.  Even though, He came in humility and gentleness, glimpses of what was to come were present and visible to some.

It was even revealed to some who did not receive the news with gladness and joy, like Herod, who at the news of the birth of the King of the Jews was filled with envy and rage and, in an effort to kill God’s Christ, killed every Jewish boy under the age of two.  Satan knew who Jesus was.  The demons knew who Jesus was.  The Pharisees knew who Jesus was which is why they feared Him and plotted throughout his years of ministry to kill Him.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time, the people laid their garments and palm branches on the ground for His passage and shouted with great joy, Hosanna in the highest.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  And less than a week later, many of those same people at His trial cried, Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!  The N. T. tells us that at the moment of His crucifixion and death the kings of the earth set themselves in array and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Anointed.  But in Him was life and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish it.

Jesus did not stay dead and did not remain in the tomb for the work that He was set apart for is not complete.  He rose from the dead and appeared to hundreds and hundreds of people in a new and glorified body fit for a new and glorious kingdom which is not of this sinful world.

After 40 days He ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of God, on His eternal throne.  Peter declared in his sermon to the Jews on the day of Pentecost, Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.

And when the children of God receive our incorruptible bodies like unto
His own glorious body, the Bible says that the whole of creation
(the heavens and the earth) will be set free from its bondage to corruption.
And that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth
and under the earth and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.  

In the words of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah:

The Lord God omnipotent reigneth
The kingdoms of this world
Is become the kingdoms of our Lord
And of his Christ
And He shall reign forever and forever.

A Music Link:  “In the First Light”—Acapella Project by Glad  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOob4CRW8m0

 

Advent

This time of the Christian year is called Advent from the latin word adventus meaning coming or appearing, specifically, it means the coming or appearing of a notable person or event.  At this time of year we relive through our hymns and the scriptures the excitement, the hope, and the expectations of the time and events leading up to the First Advent or coming of Jesus Christ to the world.  In this His First Coming he came to us in humiliation or condescension, leaving his exalted state in heaven to become one of us.  Philippians chapter 2 tells us that “although He existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The first great event in the unfolding of the First Advent or coming of Jesus to the earth was the birth of John the Baptist, six months before the birth of Jesus, a great miracle and supernatural event in its own right, as Elizabeth, his mother, was far beyond natural child bearing years.  Elizabeth was filled with expectancy for the birth of her first child.  With the birth of John the Baptist and his preaching in the wilderness of Judea preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah to the world, the Jewish world was expectant—expectant with the hope of their soon deliverance.  And someone else was expectant.  A young virtuous virgin.

In his book, The Healing, G. Campbell Morgan writes, “Extremes have characterized the treatment which the mother of our Lord has received at the hands of the Christian Church.  On the one hand she has been worshipped, and on the other, largely neglected.  In the rebound of Protestantism from Mariolotry we have been terribly in danger of relegating the Virgin Mother to a position far inferior to that which she really holds  in the counsel and purpose and power of God, and in the work of God in human history and human life.”

“The Virgin Mother takes her place in the focal point of all the histories.  Through no choice, no conceit or forwardness of her own, but by the grace of God and by an inherent fitness she becomes a connecting link between earth and heaven.”

Music Link:  Mary Did You Know by Clay Aiken  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_srtfgf2gqQ

The fact that Jesus was born to a young, virtuous virgin maiden, begins the story of the First Advent of Christ in just the right way, appropriate to Jesus’ whole life and calling and Mary’s life and calling.  His birth and life was not only supernatural but very human.  Mary was a humble and obedient young woman who accepted without equivocation the calling that God placed on her life through the words of His messenger.  And so began what for her would be an arduous journey (which she without a doubt did not see in advance.)  (As I go through this narrative, perhaps you will see parallels with your own life.)

Mary was quite different from any other woman who ever lived. She had a unique and very high calling.  She was the fullfilment of the prophesy long ago in Genesis.  She was the woman  whose seed, Jesus, would crush the head of Satan. She would not only receive the indwelling Christ and the Holy Spirit, as all believers do, but she actually, physically held within her womb the infant Son of God conceived of her very own seed.  Imagine how protective she must have been as she carried Him those nine months within her and then made the journey to Bethlehem where she would give birth to Him with no one to help her but Joseph. The condescension of Jesus begins when He is born in a stable and wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger.  Imagine the great joy and excitement Mary must have felt at the appearance of the shepherds who came to worship her baby, the fear she must have felt when she and Joseph had to flee to Egypt to save their baby’s life, and the wonder of the wise men—kings bringing expensive gifts of royalty to her young child.  Imagine the faith she had and how her faith must have grown as she watched the hand of God at work in her firstborn.

I love the way the video portrays the life of Jesus and Mary and Joseph.  The happiness and rejoicing Mary and Joseph felt as they raised their very special boy.  The questionings of imperfect understanding Mary felt when Simon, the prophet, told her when she took Jesus at eight days old to the temple that a sword would pierce her soul.  Imagine the pangs of rejection she may have felt when she found Him at twelve preaching in the synagogue, and He told her that He must be about His Father’s work.  At that time Mary must have realized that she had to already begin to “cut the apron strings” and allow Him to follow the path that God had for Him, which was certainly not the path that she would have chosen for Him.

She must have been so proud of Him to see all the good He did, the miracles He worked, the love He had for people, the tireless wandering around Palestine preaching and teaching wonderful things about the Kingdom of God and about Himself.  She no doubt feared for Him when she began to see His rejection by the people and the ceaseless ridicule and entrapment by the Pharisees.  On one occasion they compared themselves to Jesus.  Feeling morally superior, they said, “We were not born of fornication were we?”  An accusation that probably followed Mary and Jesus all their lives.

I love the way the video jumps back and forth from the baby, the child and the adult Jesus back to the child and the baby and then the adult again.  A few years ago, my son went through a very devastating time.  All I could do was pray, encourage him and watch him suffer.  For God was at work in His life.  He was thirty-six years old at the time but as I watched with love, he was my sweet baby.  He was my toddler, my little nine year old boy, my teenager, my college student, and my grown son.  His whole life and my love for him flashed before me as one moment in time.  Imagine how Mary felt when she witnessed the trial of her Son, His extreme cruel treatment and finally His nailing to the cross.  As she watched Him hanging on the cross, I believe she saw her baby, her little boy who brought her such joy, her adolescent son, teaching in the temple, and her grown son, who had done no wrong in His life,hanging on the cross dying,. How tender her heart must have been while, as He hung dying, He remembered to make arrangements for her care during her earthly life.  Perhaps she held Him in her arms when they took Him down from the cross.  And in that moment His whole life flashed before her again from infancy to adulthood—all the things she had held in her heart and pondered as she watched Him grow to maturity.  The first advent of Jesus is a fully human story as well as a supernatural one.  It did not end with the tragedy of the cross but in triumphant victory when God raised Jesus from the dead and He ascended on high to the throne of David.

And the hope and expectancy does not end there.  As you participate in all the joy, excitement and expectation of the Christmas season, are you filled with expectancy in a special way?  Perhaps you are filled with the expectancy of long awaited answer to prayer?  Or the expectancy of perhaps seeing a loved one come to Jesus?  Or perhaps it will trigger in you a yearning for the Second Coming of Christ when He will wipe every tear from our eyes and all sorrow will cease for there will be no more death.  All creation will be set free from its bondage and “The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will rise again!”  Do you have a yearning to see Him, who died for you, face to face?  We cannot think of the first advent of Christ into the world without thinking of the Second for they are not two unrelated separate events, but rather are one continuous movement of the redemptive work of God in human history.

Music Link:  The Yearning by Craig Courtney  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPW3cVJ12Yw

The Yearning

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning together
In the pains of childbirth until now. And not only creation
But we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit
Groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the redemption of our bodies.”
Romans 8:22-23

THE YEARNING

There is a yearning in hearts weighed down by ancient grief and centuries of sorrow.

There is a yearning in hearts that in the darkness hide and in the shades of death abide, a yearning for tomorrow.

There is a yearning, a yearning for the promised One, the Firstborn of creation.

There is a yearning for the Lord who visited His own, and by His death for sin atoned, to bring to us salvation.

Emmanuel, Emmanuel within our hearts, the yearning.

There is a yearning that fills the hearts of those who wait the day of His appearing.

There is a yearning when all our sorrows are erased and we shall see the One who placed within our hearts the yearning.

Emmanuel, Emmanuel within our hearts, the yearning.

by Susan Bentall Boersma

“Surely, I come quickly.
Amen!
Even so, come Lord Jesus!
Revelation 22:20

Music Link:  The Yearning by Craig Courtney  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPW3cVJ12Yw