Carolers appear at our gate every evening during this time of year. A few offer beautiful music, either vocal or instrumental. Others beat on a can and shout something indecipherable, always followed by “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” That’s our cue to come out with a treat.
Of all the standard Christmas carols, the two we hear are “Joy to the World” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” And one wonders, as the garbled words emerge from enthusiastic throats, do they understand what they’re singing? Especially when it’s in English, which most of these children wouldn’t understand. (I must say that it’s usually sung a second time in their own language.)
Then I have to ask myself, do I really understand the same song when I sing it? Do I think about it or does my mouth go on autopilot while I’m thinking about what’s for lunch?
Take this line from “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”:
God and sinners reconciled. Unpacked, these four words contain the whole story:
–A former perfect relationship between God and humankind
–People becoming sinful and separated from God
–God’s provision of the means to restore that relationship.
It was done by God setting aside His divine privilege for the sake of the estranged human race and becoming one of us! Coming down and reaching out to pay the death penalty we deserve and restore us to the place He intended for us when He made us.
What love! This is why we celebrate. Would you turn down such a gift?
I’m always fascinated by those “before and after” pictures. Once I decided to submit myself for a free makeover at a well-known business that specializes in this. I went in looking like—well, myself. And came out looking like-–well, my husband says a witch! I had to agree. Finding the nearest restroom, I washed it all off. It was so not me!
I was reminded of this the other day when reading about the ultimate makeover in Colossians. Here’s the procedure God has performed and how He sees me:
Before: You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. (1:21)
After: Now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ …. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. (1:22)
And the perfect wardrobe to go with that makeover?
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.…Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-15
I wonder what others see when they look at me…? The “before,” the “after” or the “still becoming”?
In the book of Revelation, the scene repeatedly shifts back and forth between earth and heaven. On earth it’s going from bad to worse. Meanwhile in heaven, God is on His brilliant throne, surrounded by the praise of all different kinds of enthusiastic worshippers.
Till the climax of history when at last heaven comes to the renewed earth and God makes his home among men and women. He will live with us His people, personally wiping the tears from our eyes (21:3-4) and shining the light of Himself on us. We will see His face, be marked with His name and reign with Him forever (22:4-5). God and people, so long estranged, will be together again. Earth and heaven, long separated, will be one.
Joy to the world!
Ever since I discovered Nancy Drew, I have loved mysteries—even devouring the Hardy Boys books written for boys. The word “mystery” occurs several times in the book of Ephesians, referring to God’s recently revealed plan.
In 1:10, the mystery is the unification of everything in heaven and earth under Christ’s authority. Note the vertical axis in the diagram below.
In 3:6, the mystery is the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles—again under Christ. Note the horizontal axis in the diagram.
Now with Christ in the center of both axes—it forms a cross! The only way to life and wholeness for a torn and alienated world is Christ and his death on the cross.