Rev. Tracy Ogden Johnson - Pastor
A letter from the Pastor’s desk - December 2009
'Tis the season! It's Christmastime! The lights are up throughout town, the carols are playing on the radio, and the stores are full of decorations and high-pressure sales tactics.
Oh, you weren't expecting that last one? Really? Maybe I'm oversimplifying a bit, but the world is eager to tell us what Christmas is all about! It's about finding a bargain and using a charge card to buy everyone you know a Christmas gift! It's about hitting the discount stores and running the malls and making the list and checking it twice or three times, adding as many gifts to the tree as possible. It's about making sure that everyone who delivers you a gift has one from you in return. It's about glitz and glamour, price tags and party ware, fashion and folly. And political correctness. Please don't dare offend anyone by bringing a certain Nazarene into it by name.
We know better. For us, as believers in that holy one from Nazareth, we know what Christmas is really all about. It's about Jesus.
It's the amazing celebration of the One who came from heaven to earth to set the world right. It's about God's becoming one of us, entering our lives and touching our hearts with majesty and grace. It's the most amazing gift ever given.
To help us understand that a little better, let's think back to the ways Jesus fulfills all the promises of Scripture. There are three Old Testament roles that Jesus the Christ fulfilled as He came to us that first Christmas. Three roles that in Old Testament days were anointed with oil as a sign of their calling. They are prophet, priest, and king. Jesus fulfills all three of these roles, and Christmas helps us acknowledge and celebrate that.
First, a prophet is someone who stands between God and humanity, and offers the message of God to God's people. A prophet shows people what God is like and what he expects. Jesus fulfills this role perfectly. Jesus' life was filled with the teachings of God and insight into the Word of God. Jesus himself said he showed people what God was like, and adds, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him. . . . Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:6-9 excerpts). As a prophet, Jesus is really our Emmanuel, God with us, the One who completely and absolutely reveals who our great God is.
Second, a priest is also someone who stands between God and humanity, but instead of being the messenger from God to people, it is the reverse. A priest takes the sins of the people to God. A prophet reveals God to God's people; a priest puts people in touch with God. Generation after generation, many priests would stand in the temple, offering sacrifices for the sins of the people of Israel. But none of those sacrifices was permanent; they had to be repeated day after day, year after year, for there was no permanent solution to sin. But listen to this powerful passage regarding Jesus: "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16--you can read Hebrews 7:23-27, 9:11-15, and 10:11-24 for some more great passages on Jesus as the great high priest!) In other words, Jesus, as a priest, is our Savior, the One who gave his life for us, taking our sins to the cross that we might have forgiveness and hope!
Third, a king was anointed upon taking office. Daniel assures us that no earthly king ever reigns on the throne apart from God's appointment and blessing. But we are reminded again and again that the earthly reign of kings is only temporary, and only a fragile and imperfect representation of the true King of kings! When Pilate asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews, Jesus responded with, "Yes, it is as you say" (Luke 23:3). There is "One Lord," Paul attests, "one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:5-6). That Jesus is king means that Jesus is indeed our Lord; King of kings and Lord of lords!
Did you notice anything in particular, though, about this King's reign? It comes through service to others. Jesus himself says he, "did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). The song of the early church (Philippians 2:5-11) says it best:
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
So let's forget the world's definition of Christmas with the long shopping lines and the expensive presents. This Christmas, let's worship and celebrate Jesus who is prophet, priest, and king. Let's celebrate this One who is Emmanuel, Savior, and Lord. Of course, there is no better way to worship Jesus the Christ this Christmas than by honoring his as Emmanuel--God with us-- and by allowing him to be your Savior and your Lord. Let Jesus forgive your sins, and then give your life in devotion to Him. There is no greater gift in response to the greatest gift ever given.
Together in His service,