God is profoundly loving far above my ability to know it.
In Psalm 107, King David writes of God’s loving and active rescue to Himself of those who are oppressed, evil, foolish, and consumed with self-interest. He clearly and rightly drapes guilt over all of us. From our guiltiness, God has come to draw us. He has, in one movement, grasped us from the highest reaches of human existence and from its lowest depths. He has manipulated nature and circumstance and heart and mind with His sovereign, merciful hand to bring us to Himself.
In Philippians 2, Paul writes of God’s loving and active rescue to Himself through the Person of God the Son, Jesus Christ, in His condescension to our estate, being found in humanity in the flesh, suffering and experiencing life as one of us yet still as the One True God, humbling Himself in obedience of God the Father to the point of death by crucifixion. God Almighty from His holy and exalted place, in the Son, emptying Himself of His heavenly glory to assume our human frame and our human experience and our human death. He came to us as Emmanuel. He died as one smitten, rejected, despised of men. He came beyond recognition as a baby in Bethelehem, He lived beyond the recognition of those who had eyes but would not see, and He was beaten beyond recognition to death by those who named God as Lord but would not accept their rightful, only King. He arose from the dead to only the recognition of those to whom He revealed Himself. He ascended to the Father in the sight of those who He caused to recognize Him, wit the promise of His return to receive us to Himself.
In Luke 2, we read the “Christmas story” of how He came through that lowly birth, His arrival announced first to lowly shepherds whose very work prevented them from ever being “clean” enough to enter the Temple; they even worked on Sabbath. To the worst of us, so to speak, the gospel of the King was heralded first. Psalm 107 springs alive here.
“Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”
Although the Psalm was not written directly to those shepherds, it was written by one about One. From the wilderness to the city they were led, and from our wilderness to His city we go.
In Acts 2 we read about the Person through whom the Son has sent to lead us in the ways of the Son, in the power of the Son, in the words of the Son, in the name of the Son, to the glory of the Father. In one great movement of God toward us and into us, He has fulfilled His own promise for His own glory to give us His own Spirit “for those who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
Christmas is one day in a year where we have the opportunity to stop and acknowledge these truths, and not these only but another as well: Jesus will return as our King, in the flesh, to reign here with all those whom He has revealed Himself to and whom He has sovereignly gathered to Himself, whom He has sovereignly filled with His own Spirit and caused us to love Him by the grace He extends to us. Christmas is not a tribute to the miraculous birth of Jesus as much as it is a look forward to that Glorious Appearing and the consummation of our blessed hope.
Lord, give it to us that we, Your people, remain faithful to You. Difficult days lie ahead and are even now. Grant your servants who remain in bonds the hope, strength, peace and love of Your own self, directly comforting them today in Your Holy Spirit. Grant to us who are free to live and think as if we are in their chains, and grant to us the same loving heart you give to them toward a world that still rejects You.
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Human government bears the same relation to hell as the church bears to heaven. (David Lipscomb, On Civil Government, 72).