Browsing clip art online I found this
scene of what might have been Christmas time at perhaps an 18th century
country farmhouse. Certainly it must
have been at a far more innocent time before noisy horseless motor cars,
commercialism, and hoopla defined the season. Mennonite homesteads here in our
valley still hold something of the mystique with their horse drawn sleighs,
buggies, and carriages and old fashion ways.
We wave and greet one another each Sunday morning enroute to our
respective rural churches. I pray for
them, too, that their time of worship may be deeply felt and meaningful, asking
the same for myself as I storm the Holy gates.
Recently I found a marvelous paragraph in A. W. Tozer’s testament, The
Crucified Life, which resonated a
theme in my soul:
“We are not
living for this world but for the world to come. The economy we are bartering
in is not of
this world but of the world where Jesus Christ is preparing a place for
us. We have the awesome privilege of
exchanging worldly success for favor with our Father which art in heaven. The
crucified life is an expensive
proposition. Whoever is willing to pay
the price is the one who will go forward in absolute victory and joyous
fellowship with Christ. Christ paid the
price for our salvation; we now pay the price for our full identification with
Him and our walk and pilgrimage...” That statement seals the message of the Incarnation
with the Resurrection. Perhaps that may define the Christian mindset of my
Mennonite neighbors as the same I would want for myself, albeit grateful for
the comforts and conveniences of the 21st century. Well a number
of them nowadays also have
automobiles, some painting the chrome bumpers black, a price paid as one of
many subtle testaments of their faith in the living Lord who left the glory of
heaven and began His pilgrimage on earth as a tiny babe in Bethlehem.
have turned to James S. Stewart for a meditation on this Advent Season....I
think you will find it profoundly meaningful. Enjoy and God Bless Us Everyone! Glory
in the highest and
Peace on Earth good will to all men is what the
angels still sing.
An Advent Meditation
us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born.” Judges xiii, 8.
the season of Advent. Advent, properly
understood, has three dimensions, past, present and future. The past –
Christ’s historic coming to Israel
at Bethlehem; the present – Christ’s constant coming to the Church, and to you
and me, in the here and now: the future – Christ’s final coming to all the
world at the end of the age....
was a day – so the old chronicler of the Book of Judges records – when an angel
of the Lord visited Manoah and his wife.
He told them they were to expect a child. He told them that the child
would be a great
leader and deliverer of his people. He
would ransom Israel from its captivity.
He would break the hereditary enemies, the Philistines. He would be agent
of the divine
strategy....So the child Samson came into the world. So he grew up, and lived
and loved and warred
and died, and was gathered to his fathers.
later, the angel of the Lord returned. God
was now to send another Deliverer to His people. He, too, would come as a Child. He, too, would ransom captive Israel. He,
too, would fight and smash the
Philistines: only, His Philistines would not be the warring tribe that bore
that name, but the world, the flesh and the devil, the powers of darkness that
corrupt and shackle human life with chains and slavery, the ruthless forces
that rot man’s soul and bring his brightest visions to the dust. It was
a marvelous divine strategy that laid
this Child, Immanuel, upon the doorstep of the world’s heart; and immense the
responsibility of those who had to receive this gift into their midst. The character
of every man and nation, every
society and culture, would stand revealed by their attitude to this new act of
God. It was indeed – though they might
not realize it – the critical, decisive question: “What shall we
do to the Child that shall be
born?”...And still at Advent He draws near, and still at Christmas time He
comes again, the Holy Child of Bethlehem, God impinging on the human race in
Christ – and still the challenge is renewed.
It is a momentous responsibility for our world, our Church,
ourselves to face the challenge of His coming.
Historically, there have been three answers to the question....We shall
find three different sets of people giving three conflicting answers. And these
answers have persisted across the
centuries, and still represent the three conflicting attitudes of our
contemporary world to the fact of Christ.
answer: the answer of hostility, the
answer that grew and swelled and multiplied for thirty years till one day it
became a mad mob’s terrifying roar – “Away with Him! Away
with Him! Crucify Him! ...There was another question ought to have
been asking. ‘What shall the Child that is born do to me?’ This
the blazing paradox of the Gospel
story. This is the blazing irony of the
incarnation. Across these lovely hopes
of Bethlehem, the shadow of the tyrant loomed vast and ominous and terrific,
and the Babe seemed weak and helpless.
But history bears witness that when the proud tyrant in his might struck
out at Mary’s Child he was striking – unknown to himself – at the elemental
force of the universe. He was pitting
himself against the drive of the purpose of Almighty God. And it broke him utterly. This is the eternal fact. To repudiate
the moral values of Jesus Christ
is not to join issue with a dim dead Figure of a distant past: it is to take
arms against “the everlasting
right” for which “the silent stars are strong”.
And that is always hopeless warfare.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts” -
try me in the light of Bethlehem, search me with the judgment and mercy of
Immanuel – “and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way
Bethlehem innkeeper answered...the answer of preoccupation...inattention and
unconcern – secular priorities inducing apathy.
And when His days on earth were over, what was this Messiah to the
majority of His race? Neither an object
of fervent devotion, nor a target of passionate animosity – but less than the
dust beneath time’s chariot wheels. He
just did not matter at all. He could be
ignored....Here is the illogicality of indifference. Christ refuses to be ignored....He
human race... But irresistibly and inexorably, He comes back, our Judge and our
Redeemer, our Tormentor and our Saviour, the pressure of Almighty God on your
life and mine. He is there now – this
Advent season – and He will not be ignored.
“Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
old saint of God who took the Child into his arms answered it. The
answer of commitment. The answer of
complete devotion... This is no time – when atheism is militant and the spirit
of denial is passionate and missionary – for any follower of Jesus to be vague
and dispassionate in allegiance. Simeon
embraced God’s Messiah. He took Him to
his heart. Do we?
sermon by James S. Stewart, “The Challenge of His Coming”, published in his
book The Wind of the Spirit.
Surely He hath borne our griefs, and
carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and
afflicted. But He
was wounded for our
transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our
peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.
(Isaiah writing five centuries before Christ
was born. Isaiah 53:4-5)