As we approach Christmas, it is the season that church has, historically, called Advent. I thought I would re-share some old thoughts about Christmas in this time. Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal (which the Apostle Paul would not have used, since he didn’t speak English), but it was the hymnal I had when I wrote this. Apart from Scripture quotes, the copyright on this completely mine.
“For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.” Ephesians 4:4-6
There are, unfortunately, divisions among those who claim the name of Christ. We tend to argue about things great and small. Where else can you find arguments so bitter that a person will not speak to someone five feet away?
Some of the arguments are necessary. It often happens that we take our eyes off the Cross and get greatly distracted. When that happens, wrong goals appear and wrong ideas are taught. Those times, the division is necessary. Sometimes, our vision gets blurry and we choose foolishness in our arguments.
This is sadly unavoidable because we are drawn to our self-interest more than anything else. We must remember that the debate should not be solved by our opinions or personal preferences. Rather, we must come back to our High Priest. We must come back to the manger.
Consider the manger: what division can we find in Bethlehem? The division between God and man is closing with the baby. He has come the greater difference, made the longer journey.
When we consider that, can we continue to bicker with one another? What distance are we refusing to cover?
The answer to our arguments must always come back to Him. Foremost in our mind must be this realization: Jesus is the standard of right. The follower of Christ recognizes that only Jesus has the authority to declare right from wrong. We can determine from His Word right from wrong, but it is not based on our own opinion.
As we have divisions within the family of believers, ask this: When the issue is presented to the High Priest, how will He see it?
This is not a question of unity ahead of truth: all unity among believers starts in three places: the Empty Tomb, the Cross, and the Manger. Unity without truth is more than an oxymoron: it is impossible. Rather, we should look at our divisions in light of Christ and the manger: where would be without Him at all?
We could not be divided about the time of His return, for we would not know it. We could not be divided about miracles and teachings, followers and successors, for there would be none of these things to discuss. If we start at the manger, start with remembering the relief that is finding God with us, many of those issues begin to fade in their importance.
Scripture passage for the day: Luke 2:17-18 (NIV)
“When they had seen him, they spread the word
concerning what had been told them about this child,
and all who heard it were amazed
at what the shepherds said to them.”
Hymn for the day: The First Noel #180
Prayer: Almighty God, I like to have my way. Even when “my way” is to avoid making decisions, that is what I want. This habit does not help many people, and it can bring harm and division. Yet when I gaze in wonder at the manger, I realize that I cannot embrace bitter divisions. I will not accept a false unity that denies You, but I want to live with joy alongside my fellow followers of Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray, Amen.