Christmas Eve 2009: Don't Fear, Fear God
By Mountain Standard Tim, it is 11:32 pm. Christmas Eve is ticking to a close and soon I shall be visited by the first of 3 spirits, all of which will be played by Jim Carrey and/or Muppets. :)
I've found myself a bit pensive today. My sin has been before me today, and with Christmas being a season about the Gospel, I've had some extra ammunition to fight thoughts of doubt and guilt. As I read Luke 1, this evening, Zechariah's prophecy about the ministry of the Messiah was powerfully comforting.
"And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Tender mercy. Forgiveness of sin. Light to those who sit in darkness. Peace. All this is found in the Gospel, that is, the Good News that Jesus was born, lived, crucified, and resurrected in the place of sinners like me, that I might be reconciled to God. It's a tradition of mine to bust out Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christmas Sermons during Advent each year, and I've been greatly comforted by his words. Bonhoeffer lived through some excruciatingly tough days, seeking to follow Christ (and lead the Confessing - i.e. anti-Nazi - German church) during the rule of the Third Reich. He was eventually martyred for his leadership and refusal to submit to Hitler. In preaching on Rev. 14:6-13, he brought out the following, which is a great comfort as well:
This is a great comfort for all who believe: The gospel remains. It is an eternal gospel, our gospel, which we hear, read and preach, Sunday by Sunday, the gospel that once changed our lives, when we understood it for the first time. ... The gospel remains through all eternity. We need not fear or trouble ourselves with the thought that it might, as it seems today, be abandoned. What are ten years or even more of our experience and observations? The gospel is eternal and remains despite everything. It remains the one and only true proclamation of God and his lordship over the world.
... That is the first command of the gospel. "Fear God" and you will have nothing else to fear. Don't fear what the next day may bring. Don't fear other people. Don't fear violence and power, even when it comes to you personally and can rob you of your life. Don't fear the high and mighty in the world. Don't fear yourself. Don't fear your sins. All these fears will die. From all these fears you will be set free. For you they are no longer there. But fear God and him alone. ... Fear God seriously and "give him glory." He would be acknowledged as the creator, as our creator, he would be acknowledged as the reconciler, who has made peace between God and man; he would be acknowledged as redeemer, who at the end sets us free from all our sins and all our burdens. Honor him and his holy gospel, "because the hour of his judgment has come." And this judgment is the gospel itself. The eternal gospel is the judge of all peoples.
For those of you who know Christ this is a great hope in which to rejoice. The first Christmas was a huge moment in the history of God's plan to save us. Rejoice, take hope, remember. For those of you who don't know Christ, who don't acknowledge him as Lord and God of all, know that the baby born in Bethlehem was born to rule, born to save. Don't reject his salvation, for every person on earth will fall into one of two groups: those who are saved by Christ or those who oppose him and justly face the consequences. Know his tender mercies. Feel the warmth of his sunrise. Step out of the darkness.