The birth of Jesus is only the beginning as you will see unpacked in Michel Martel’s reflection on “le Petit Jesus”… from birth to Passover to empty tomb and Risen Christ. A completed picture of Jesus. As we await the New Year let’s ask one another, give sanction and permission to one another to ask ourselves and one another some questions:
- Does my journey with God include prayer, scripture, and gathering with other Christians?
- Do I behave in such a way that I know that God is concerned about all of me, body, and spirit and even more than that?
- Are there relationships I need to reconcile?
- Is it well with my soul in Christ or are there some outstanding things I need to attend to?
- Is my view and stewardship of resources, money, time, leisure and God’s creation reflective of Christian faith and practise?
- Am I thankful, truly reflectively, wonderfully thankful for God’s gifts to me?
As with all lists, I write these as a reflection of my own journey; may some of them have meaning for each of us.
If I need to brace myself for the new year, there are words of comfort and perspective found in Isaiah 42:1-7 in a devotional by Kerry Macfarlane Bell.
Happy New Year (being the second New Year as Advent is the real New Year Season).
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
Ils se dépêchèrent donc d’y aller et trouvèrent Marie et Joseph avec le nouveau-né couché dans une mangeoire.
Experiencing the Three Cs of Christmas
For a French Canadian, the child in the manger is an integral part of the Christmas story, as it should be. It’s not uncommon to hear a person in our milieu refer to our Lord and Saviour as “le petit Jésu” (little Jesus). Obviously, for many this Jesus is but a myth, an archetype of something good and sublime: end of story. I’ve learned through the years that in order to reach my fellow French Canadians for Christ, it is important to start where they are in their understanding or concept of God.
Let us for a moment look again at “le petit Jésu.” What is it in this child that would warrant such adoration and praise?
First, we see the cradle or “la crèche.” God’s celestial calendar made it crystal clear that the time had come (Galatians 4:4), the prophets had proclaimed it and the angels confirmed it on that glorious night. The Son of God experienced the cradle in the most humble abode for our salvation. As Philippians 2:8 tells us, he truly humbled himself. Experiencing the cradle as Jesus did reminds us to humbly walk before the Lord, to be God-centred rather than self-centered (James 4:10). Andrew Murray said something like this: “Humility is not thinking about yourself, but also, not thinking about yourself at all.”
Second, as we look at the child we see the cross. One day they sang “Hosanna blessed be the King of Israel” and then on the next cried “Crucify him, crucify him.” The baby in the manger was to experience the cross, the most hideous death of that time. What a death, what a sacrifice, yes, but what a victory! As an evangelist and pastor I am often overwhelmed when I preach the message of the cross, because I’ve seen with my own eyes how the power of the cross can totally change a person’s life (2 Corinthians 5:17). Nonsense to the world, as Paul would say, “but unto us who are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). It is also power for those who seek real fellowship with God day after day. (1 John 1:5-7).
Third, as we look at the child we also see the crown. He died but he rose again and now sits at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:12). In Revelation 4, the 24 elders are wearing crowns but in the end “cast their crowns before the throne” to glorify him who is worthy of all praise and glory (Revelation 4:10-11). May we cast our crowns before the one “who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of his glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24). We most certainly can experience the crown (victory) as he reigns in us today.
Thus the child does speak to us all and reminds us of the words of the gospel song that says “I am his and he is mine.”
Michel Martel, Pastor
Église Baptiste La Voix de l’Évangile, St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC, UEBFC
Isaiah 42: 1-7
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I was so struck by an image in the Globe and Mail recently, that I have fastened it to my fridge with a magnet. Over the slim blue curve of the earth against a black background is a circular ball of starfire. It is a photograph of the sun rising over the edge of the Earth in an image taken from the International Space Station. It is a simple yet stark image of hope, a reminder as we enter this season of Advent.
I am far from alone as I lament all that is ravaging this planet we call home; war, corruption, terrorism, and the threat of environmental degradation. Into this present reality, the words from Isaiah 42 are a beacon of hope not unlike this image of a rising sun. Both beckon us to awaken to the coming of the light. The words are an echo of the explicit promise of the Light to come in Isaiah’s words in chapter 9…”The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in deep darkness – on them light has shined.” Isaiah 42 holds forth the hope, spoken through the mouth of the prophet that, “Here is my servant…my chosen in whom my soul delights, my Spirit I have put upon him and he will bring forth justice to the nations.”
It is the Creator God who is the source of these words. Out of the cosmos, far from the horrors that meet us in the morning news, come these words. So says the Creator who made the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and ALL that comes from it, who gives breath to the people and spirit to those who walk in it – you, me, all nations; the inclusive Word comes to all, in flesh, to this earth, beckoning all to awaken to this hope, this light, this bringer of justice, who is pictured as full of gentleness, patience, and perseverance. “A Bruised reed he will not break, a dimly burning wick he will not quench;” and once again, “He will faithfully bring forth justice.”
Quietly, through the breath and the presence of his Spirit, a covenant people will be transformed and become Light-bearers who are, in the words of the Creator God speaking through Isaiah, to “open the eyes that are blind, bringing out those imprisoned in darkness.”
Isaiah’s words come, like the image of the light rising over the rim of the earth seen from space, as a promise of a hope that is to transform darkness, our own and that of our planet. Keeping this image before me in this season, I also hear a quiet echo of this hope captured beautifully in a paraphrase of Psalm 46 by Nan Merrill.
“Come, behold the works of the Beloved, how love does reign even in humanity’s desolation. For the Beloved yearns for wars to cease, shining light into fearful hearts: Loving even those who oppress the weak…Awaken! Befriend justice and mercy; Do you not know you bear my Love?”
Kerry Macfarlane Bell