As we move rapidly into the heart of another Christmas season (its only 8 more sleeps until Christmas Day!) I have been reflecting somewhat on the incarnation and that moment when “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14a). In my earlier post Rediscovering Hope we thought about the nature of hope and Paul’s depiction of God as “the God of Hope” (Romans 15:13). This notion of hope was not wishful thinking but something that is certain, confident and sure; something that depends not upon us but on God’s character and promises.
Paul also talks of “Christ Jesus our hope” (1 Tim 1:1) and says that we are to live upright and godly lives “while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Jesus’ arrival into our world as one of us heralded the dawning of hope for a lost world. Jesus is our hope and He chose to step into our world and walk amongst us.
Jesus Hope of the Nations…
Matthew 12:18-21 quotes Isaiah 42:1-4 and refers to its fulfilment through Jesus;
“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.”
Jesus was the servant of the Lord; He was chosen, loved and delighted in by the Father, indwelt by the Spirit and it is He in whom the “nations will put their hope”. Likewise in Luke 4 Jesus Himself says that “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (4:21) having just read to them from Isaiah 61-62 the following passage (4:18-19);
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Jesus’ ministry was a ministry of hope that to this day continues to bring good news for the poor, freedom for the prisoners, captives & oppressed and sight for the blind. In Jesus Simeon saw God’s Salvation which would be a light for the Gentiles and the glory of Israel;
“Simeon took him [baby Jesus] in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.’ (Luke 2:29-32)
The light of the World…
In considering the birth of our Saviour I am reminded of that passage in Isaiah 9 which speaks of the dawning of a ‘great light’; a light which would be seen by those walking the darkness. This light Isaiah makes clear was none other than the child to be born who would be called “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace”;
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:2-7)
John too writes about this child saying “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5). Several verses later he added “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (v9). Though He was in the world, the world, says John, did not recognise Him and even His own did not receive Him. However John then says that “…all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (v12-13)”.
The Suffering Servant
Truly Jesus is our hope in every respect! He was God’s suffering servant who entered our world in order take God’s wrath upon Himself as the “Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). In the previous verse Isaiah writes “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed (v5)”. Our hope of forgiveness and the very essence of God’s grace to us is completely dependent on Jesus and all that He did for us at the cross. If we are trusting in Christ alone we will stand before God clothed in Jesus’ robes of righteousness in the confident knowledge that the penalty of our sin has been paid for. Our hope of an eternity in the new heavens and the new earth is completely dependent upon all that was achieved at the cross. We will share eternity with God in the knowledge that there will be no more sin, death, suffering or pain. At that time we will be made like Christ, becoming the people God intended for us to be and we will see God as He really us.
What a hope. What a blessing. What a joy. Such hope dawned when Hope Himself stepped into our world to become one of us and ultimately to die in our place. Join me in worshipping the “God of Hope” this Christmas as we “wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).