At Christmastide, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, do we have a sense of being rescued? It is hard to think of rescue when for many of us it is a time of receiving and giving gift upon gift. The material smothers any awareness of rescue. The only rescue that we might contemplate is the rescue from an excessive amount of things bought on credit. It is difficult for us to focus on God’s gift of rescuing us from the power of darkness through Christ Jesus.
In Paul’s letter to the Colossians 1:9-20 we hear in part: “He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
There is a story in Luke (2:22-40 NRSV) that tells about the baby Jesus being presented to the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem by Mary and Joseph. There was a devout man named Simeon who was guided by the Spirit to come into the temple at this time. As Luke tells us, “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.” Luke goes on to tell us that when Simeon saw the baby Jesus he, “…took him in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples…’”
Simeon truly felt rescued. He had finally seen his Savior and held Him in his arms. Simeon was ready to face death with the knowledge of salvation. Our time on earth is short and we, like Simeon, have the blessing of knowing the Messiah, our Savior, Emmanuel, in our time. Each Christmas it is proper for us to hold the baby Jesus in our arms and give thanks to God for sending His only Son to rescue us from the power of darkness. We are redeemed and forgiven through Christ. The gift of salvation is ours in His kingdom. We may not want to put Him down until next Christmas.
As children of our Lord and Master we have a great inheritance. As does any heir, we have a choice as to what to do with it. At this time of celebration of the birth of Jesus, it is important that we reflect, as St. Paul did in Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7, on the reason for Christ’s coming and its meaning as our inheritance. Faith is a greater master than the law. If we practice it, faith is our key to God’s kingdom.
No worldly ruler can conquer our faith. What a gift God has given us through His Son. It is an inheritance unmatched in the natural world. In John’s Gospel (1:1-18 NRSV) in speaking of Christ he says, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” John, the baptizer, recognized this as he prepared the way for his cousin Jesus.
When the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus while John was baptizing Him, it was obvious to John that Jesus was without sin. The child that was born in a manger became God’s teacher and finally a perfect offering for our sin, as He was without sin. Instead of the law being our guide and master, we have become the heirs of faith in God through Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
This is the Christmas story that we must take with us and live out in the coming year. We have a great inheritance. We must use it wisely. We must love God and one another with our faith at the very center of us. No man can destroy it. It is ours to keep for eternity.
This is what St. Paul tells us in Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7. “Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith…But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.”
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extention: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.