18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly. 20 As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled:
23 Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son,
And they will call him, Emmanuel [Isaiah 7:14]. (Emmanuel means "God with us.")
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God,
the one who is first over all creation,
16 Because all things were created by him:
both in the heavens and on the earth,
the things that are visible and the things that are invisible.
Whether they are thrones or powers,
or rulers or authorities,
all things were created through him and for him.
17 He existed before all things,
and all things are held together in him.
18 He is the head of the body, the church,
who is the beginning,
the one who is firstborn from among the dead
so that he might occupy the first place in everything.
19 Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in him,
20 and he reconciled all things to himself through him-
whether things on earth or in the heavens.
He brought peace through the blood of his cross.
“Muslims regard Jesus as a prophet, perhaps the greatest prophet after Mohammed himself…. They do not think that he was in any sense the Son of God…. Mohammed rejected the idea that Jesus came to die for the sins of the world.”* Christian faith said Jesus was “the Christ” (a title—the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Messiah). It’s a straightforward matter of history that it did not take centuries before Christians began speaking of Jesus as God. Scholar Larry Hurtado wrote, “In historical terms we may refer to a veritable ‘big bang,’ an explosively rapid and impressively substantial christological [understanding of Christ] development in the earliest stage of the Christian movement.”**
Lord Jesus, in Joseph’s dream, the angel said that you “will save his people from their sins.” I believe, and want to share, that astounding, life-changing truth. Amen.
John Wesley’s rule states, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.” As a family, talk about each of these phrases. What does the word “all” mean and are there any exceptions? Compare Wesley’s rule to Jesus’ greatest commandments found in Matthew 22: 37-40. Choose one world religion other than Christianity and explore how that faith would respond to the words of Wesley and of Jesus. What are the similarities and what are the differences, if any? Pray and ask God to help you love others as God loves you.
* Adam Hamilton, Christianity and World Religions. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005, p. 83.
** Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003, p. 135.
*** William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, p. 122.
Recently, I’ve dedicated myself to the practice of reading the writings of the early church Fathers. No doubt there were also many early church mothers who contributed to the development and theology of the church. Yet most of what we are able to read today is from these fathers. Their work is sometimes tedious and complex, but always insightful. What inspires me about the early church fathers, such as John Chrysostom, Irenaeus, Athanasius and many others is that they wrote without the benefit of thousands of years of Christian theology. In many ways, their theology, what they knew and believed about Jesus as it was passed to them from the disciples, came to form our thoughts and beliefs today about Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, and the Savior of the world.
Belief is important. But so too is our experience of who Jesus is in our lives.
When I was a child my grandmother taught me the stories of Jesus. For her, Jesus was not just a good moral teacher or another rabbi. Instead, Jesus was the one who had met her in sickness and poor health, the one who met her in joy and through the love of family, and the one who also met her in death. She would stay up late with me sharing stories found in Scripture. She would pray with me. In her eyes, I could see her love for this person, Jesus. Her experience enabled me to experience Jesus in my life, too. In my grandmother I met, in a real way, the God of love through Jesus.
What might your life and our world look like if people saw Jesus within us? But what does this look like? How might we treat others who think or believe differently than us?
St. John Chrysostom wrote about the gift of Jesus to our world. He stated, “Let’s then show a seriousness worthy of the gift! We shall show it indeed, if we seriously cherish love, the mother of good works. Love isn’t empty words, or a mere sweetness in speaking to people; love is actually taking care of people, exerting itself by loving actions, such as relieving destitution, giving help to the sick, saving people from dangers, standing alongside those who are in trouble, weeping with those who weep, rejoicing with those who rejoice.”
When we practice this kind of love, we represent our belief in action. Even more, we become better neighbors in our church, community, and world. To whom can you show love today?
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