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December Newsletter- Strange Way To Save The World

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(C. S Lewis noted in his book Mere Christianity: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”)

Let’s see, about 6 weeks of Christmas songs, messages and greetings.   That’s the general span of what we do beginning the day after Thanksgiving through December 25th.  Our library has hundreds of this season’s songs and each of those in some way is about the celebration of that one, unique Bethlehem morning.  Near the end of this Christmas season, we will bring out our classic Christmas music and one of the songs that catches my ear each season is the 1993 4Him release, ‘A Strange Way To Save the World’.  It reminds me of our great ability as human beings to take the most profound thing in the world and not really think very much about it.  Oh, we give it a glancing mention in December of each year and then go on about our business. We do a couple of predictable things each Christmas season: (1) make it a season of kindness to our friends, relatives and acquaintances, and (2) summarize it as a season measured in large part by trips to the mall or Amazon.  Seldom do we stop long enough to concentrate on our salvation story and the real meaning of Jesus’ birth.  Think about it– in His story of redemption, many times the smallest, the strangest and the most illogical, are presented to us as Truth.  The seemingly unbelievable becomes the believable for us.  For example, this Savior was born in a barren desert land, instead of Babylon with its splendor.  Jesus was born to a cabinet maker rather than to royalty, the son of an unwed Jewish girl instead of a well established family.  Born in Bethlehem, rather than what was the cultural center of Joseph’s world, Jerusalem.  This miracle baby cried his first cry in a manger rather than a bed, in a barn rather than a synagogue.  This Savior would be King without an army, or title, without wealth, had no handlers to manage his image.  In fact, this Savior did not have a place to lay his head.  This Savior always seemed to be pushed forward as he voluntarily kept stepping back from anything that promoted himself.  He became our Leader of the only Truth and did that in a world set on believing a Lie.

The Faith we proclaim is not simply about personal improvement, not just about good and evil, but about the possibility, the power, to be transformed from one creature into a new creature.  It’s a strange way to save the world for sure.  This King associated himself with tax-collectors, thieves and a few women of poor reputation.  This King gathered his friends from the local fishermen and the like, telling them (and in turn telling us) that they would have to lose themselves in order to find themselves; that by decreasing they would be increasing, thereby seeing the presence of God increase in their lives.  That if we gave away, we’d then find things we hoped for coming back into our lives.  Going so far as to suggest that we must die to live, we must be meek in order to inherit the earth.  C. S. was so right, this Gospel is too profound to be founded by a seer, a mere prophet; it’s either the answer or the great fraud.

With this Son, Life just kept squeezing him to the top.  He amazed the scholars at 12 years old, yet did no miracles until the age of thirty.  His early ministry lasted just three years, having been judged, crucified and buried by the age of thirty-three.  His followers were scattered and all killed except one: John.  In three years, 36 months, this Savior, this Life, this man had proposed to have saved the whole cosmos.  His ministry was done.  Now that’s a weird way to save the world.  Now, we’re left some 2000 years later to put our trust, our faith, in a system that seems so illogical and to many a fable, probably to most a myth.

And, in this story the ‘strangeness’ continues.  People that are not perfect have been made perfect by the blood of this Savior.  The un-saintly have been declared saints by this Gospel.  The unholy are holy because He was holy.  In this story, the Joy of the Lord is our strength, not good self-esteem.  There’s hope in our patience and peace in our steadfastness in times of trouble.  We’re told to hold fast and ‘judge no thing before its time’ because we are a people that live by Faith, not by sight.  Here’s a Life not fueled by power, not by our might, but by His Spirit.  It’s a Trust that the more we get out of the way the more of His presence is revealed in our lives.  There’s more.  We’re free because we’ve been made a slave unto Christ.  We have to discover, and truly believe, that we have more Life because we don’t try to preserve our life.  We must learn that the modern cultural creed of ‘finding ourselves’ and our personal efforts to pursue our own happiness in the end leave us lonely, frustrated and disappointed.  Finding Him leaves us fulfilled; find Him and everything wonderful gets thrown in.  We learn that praying for our enemies and loving our neighbors have a profound effect on our lives as well as theirs.  In this deal, we will be the most mature when we come as little children and trust in our Father.

The song’s lyrics concerning Joseph’s point of view take it further.

‘I’m sure he must have been surprised at where this road had taken him, ‘cause never in a million lives would he have dreamed of Bethlehem.

And standing at the manger he saw with his own eyes the message from the angel come to life.  And Joseph said:  Why me, I’m just a simple man of trade?  Why Him, with all the rulers of the world?  Why here inside this stable filled with hay?  Why her, she’s just an ordinary girl?

Now I’m not one to second guess what angels have to say.  But this is such a strange way to save the world.

To think of how it could have been if Jesus had come as He deserved.  There would have been no Bethlehem, no lowly shepherds at his birth.  But Joseph knew the reason love had to reach so far.  And, as he held the Savior in his arms he must have thought…this is such a strange way to save the world.’

Now that’s our Christmas story.  Strange story!  This Redeemer came to a people that had been, and still are, considered the least, the last and the lost.  Those people had failed, multiple times turned away from God, been enslaved, made outcast; they were simple people in a simple time.  Why them, why then?  That’s such a strange people for a God to care about.  Some would believe, and it’s an easier sell perhaps, that He would come for the elite, the most, the strong.   While He did make us that by His Grace, He came for us as we were when we all were wrong and alone.   All other faiths come for a people that have earned a passage, a meet and greet experience with their god.  With Father, Son and Spirit, no one has earned anything.  God came to heal those that were lame, lift up those that had fallen, encourage those that were downcast, give hope to the hopeless, forgive those that deserved harshness.  God simply did what He asks us to do, believe things that are many times not true about us.  We’re to examine our hearts and not our weakness in order to find our place in this world.  Folks, that’s a strange way to save the world!  As Lewis implied, this is so strange, so outrageous that we cannot simply put it off as an odd but wonderful story.  No, this is such a strange way that we are only left with ‘I believe’ or ‘I don’t believe’!  I once read a quote from someone that went something like this: The answer to Sin is not human virtue (our goodness); the answer to Sin is Faith.  That statement wraps up so much of the upside-downiness of our Gospel.  We don’t have a simple ethic, or a superior morality.  We have a pretty unbelievable and strange story to believe.  Ours is to get it, get comfortable with it, embrace it, and trust it.

Taylor Mason Friday, January 18

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