With Christmas nearly upon us I wanted to send one last post of 2017. This time round I’ve been thinking about how God welcomes us with open arms and yet when He stepped into our world we did not receive Him.
10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. John 1:10-11
On the whole Jesus was not welcomed by those He came to save. Royalty and Heads of state would normally expect to be welcomed with much pageantry and hullabaloo. Jesus however came as a baby born in a manger because there was no room left at the inn. Jesus exchanged the glory of heaven for a lowly stable. Jesus came to us in humility when He could have come with a great show of power. Jesus could have made it abundantly clear who was boss but instead He chose to give His life at the hands of sinful men and woman as a ransom for the sins of the world.
It would be easy for us to suggest that we would have done otherwise but actually we know deep down that we are still make the same mistakes. We are still living the kind of lives that led Jesus to die on the cross. I’ve been reflecting over the past few weeks about my own weaknesses and failures as a father, son, husband, friend and leader. Though I try to live up to my responsibilities in these roles I know I will always end up letting people down because that is the nature of the human condition. Though I mean well, I know that I will get it wrong as often (if not more) than I get it right.
Furthermore until such a point that we choose to follow Jesus for ourselves the reality is that we have all lived our lives without reference to God. Jesus told a parable about two sons in Luke 15. Some of us will identify with the younger son who chose to go his own way. Like the younger son we’ve thrown back at our Father all that He has given us and lived our lives as if He did not matter. Others of us have lived like the elder son who thought He was the real deal because He did the right things but whose heart was actually far from His Father also. Regardless of which brother we are talking about the uncompromising welcome of the Father is remarkable. We see this welcome in the threefold ministry of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
God the Father
In the parable portrays God as the ‘broken-hearted Father’ desperate to see His son run back into His arms of love.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20
The Father was looking out for the return of His son and when he sees him he throws off all social norms and expectations and runs to embrace his son. No lectures, no show of disappointment but pure unadulterated love expressed in word and deed. It is such good news that the Father throws a party to celebrate. Do you know that God too throws a party when we come back to Him!
God the Son
Jesus Himself is described as the good shepherd in John 10 who cares for His sheep. He loves the sheep, He knows them and they know Him and they know His voice.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11
When wolves attack the hired hand flees because they are not his own. This is not so with the shepherd however who cares for his sheep and is willing to risk His life for them. The welcome of the son is absolute because of the intimate relationship He has with those He has loved and given His life for.
God the Holy Spirit
Thirdly when we choose to follow Jesus He sends the Holy Spirit to come and live within us. He is the one who ‘draws alongside’ and who seeks to teach, guide, empower and equip us for all God has for us. Wherever we go the Holy Spirit will also remain with us as our constant companion. He works within us to change and transform us. He works to point us to the love of the Father and the care of the Son.
Together the three persons of the trinity, help us to see just how much we mean to God. Each emphasises a different aspect whether it be God’s Sovereignty (Father), God’s Intimacy (Son) or God’s presence (Spirit). We need the full picture! God is never too busy or too distracted. He always has time for us. There is nothing we can do to diminish the love that God has for us because He is the very source and definition of love. Neither does God ever grow tired of us! In fact He wants to spend eternity with us! We matter to Him because He made us in His image and likeness.
He really is a good, good Father who loves to give good gifts to His children. He really is a great and faithful husband to us even when we are unfaithful back. He really is a great friend who will stick close to us through thick and thin. He will support us and will not to let us down no matter what. He will never leave us or forsake us. In Him there really is no condemnation (Romans 8:1) and there is no separation from His love no matter what (Romans 8:35-38). Because of all that Jesus achieved at the cross God the Father calls us Sons and daughters adopted into His family.
We will often mess up and fail to help, support and be there for one another but ultimately only God can. His welcome will never be diminished. Two pertinent questions for us this Christmas are whether we will welcome the one who forever welcomes us and whether we will return to Him and run into His open arms of love.
Happy Christmas. Come back for more in 2018!