The Incarnation…a post by Rich

As we turn our minds and hearts to the birth of our Savior this Christmas season we are reminded again of the significance of the Son of God’s incarnation. The descent of God in assuming human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ is history’s game changer.  Malcolm Muggeridge expresses it this way,

“Thanks to the great mercy and marvel of the Incarnation, the cosmic scene is resolved into a human drama. God reaches down to relate himself to man, and man reaches up to relate himself to God. Time looks into eternity and eternity into time, making now always and always now. Everything is transformed by this sublime drama of the Incarnation, God’s special parable for fallen man in a fallen world. The way opens before us that was charted in the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a way that successive generations of believers have striven to follow. They have derived there from the moral, spiritual, and intellectual creativity out of which has come everything truly great in our art, our literature, our music. From that source comes the splendor of the great cathedrals and the illumination of the saints and mystics, as well as countless lives of dedication, men and women serving their God and loving their Savior in humility and faith.”

And so we marvel at this child, the enfleshed Son of God. Helpless and frail, dependent and in need of nurturance, and all the while by the eternal plan of God taking the material world, our humanity, into God. The incarnation is the visible manifestation of God loving us. It is God coming to be with us and for us. It is God making evident his relentless pursuit of those who are his own. It is not a generic love but a particular love. A specific one comes, one born in Bethlehem, who with parents Mary and Joseph, two very specific individuals, flees to Egypt, who is then tempted, as we are in every respect, and baptized. He drinks, laughs, weeps, heals, sleeps, prays, and teaches. He dies and is buried, is raised from the dead and he ascends to heaven. He sends the Holy Spirit. Jesus, this particular man, the Son of God incarnate does all of this for us and for our sake- for our salvation and God’s glory.

And now by faith we live in Him. His life is now our life. As Julie Canlis writes, “the circumference of our identity now involves another person.” Relational beings that we are we now have our truest identity reclaimed and redeemed in Christ. This is not a vague spiritual escapism. It is a particular love calling us to communion and in that communion we become ourselves as God intended. This particular Savior takes me and you in all your sin, wounds, and weaknesses and establishes us in the family of God as adopted sons and daughters, co-heirs with Christ in all our humanity. The incarnation does all this and more. Jesus said this, “he who believes in me has eternal life.” Life within the Trinitarian God now made possible through the incarnation. Thanks be to God.

Baking Christmas Cookies…a post by Joy

Baking and decorating cookies is a Christmas tradition that I have done with my children, my grandson, my great nieces here for Thanksgiving, and with other children throughout the years. Connecting with my own “inner child” while making cookies with the children brings a lot of delight to me. It’s wonderful that God created us with the ability to be child-like at times. It’s a way that we  can  “step into” exemplifying that part of Christ. Amazingly, God chose to send His son into the world as an infant to live and experience the life of being a child before growing into adulthood.  For me, children are some of the best teachers when it comes to becoming more like Christ in our journey of Christian Spiritual Formation.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned as an adult came from a 5 year old boy. He was a new piano student of mine. I had worked with his small  group class for 4 months getting ready for their first recital. Intentionally, I  did not use the word “nervous” with my young students when talking about performance. Using words like, “silly,” “excited”, “happy,”  I asked each of the students how they were feeling before they went to the piano to perform their pieces for their parents and classmates.  Michael, the 5 year old boy, said, “I was not excited or silly, or happy. I was just waiting.”  As he spoke with a “matter of fact assurance”, gentle tears fell on my face as I knew God had spoken to me through this precious little boy.  At the time,  Jim and I were in a transitional stage praying about a big move.  Michael had been sitting still, patiently waiting for his “next move” to the piano as he listened to the music of the previous student. The Holy Spirit reminded me that God was in charge of our situation and that we needed to trust Him and continue to be confident in the “waiting place” where we found ourselves…we weren’t “silly, excited, or happy, we were just waiting.”

To be child-like is not always about 2 year old tantrums,  or being selfish. It is about having a simple trust of the one who is “in charge.” For Jesus, to become an infant to enter this world, He had to trust His Father about this journey of entering the human race as fully God and fully human. I have to trust God in His daily work in me in regards to Spiritual Formation and transformation.

I can imagine that as Jesus grew up as a child, He definitely lived as all children for thousands of years in that He “lived in the moment.” This fascinates me about children and inspires me too. They draw us in to engage with them if we will just be aware of their invitation to be present to them.

Children can invite us to live in the moment with whatever is happening at that time.  They make us realize that it’s true what has been said,  “Life is what happens while we are making plans.”  Granted there are times when we can’t always enter into their timetable. It seems that Christ gives them as a gift to us to help us to pay attention to the invitations to be in the moment with them. We have to keep returning to them constantly in the same way we must keep returning to Christ when we actually pay attention to His invitation to notice Him in the moment and really “BE” there with Him.

During the Advent Season, as I once again dwell  on the beautiful story of how Jesus came to the earth by being born of a virgin,  I really want to listen, be aware, and wait patiently as I intentionally try to be present to the child-like presence of Christ. The Holy Spirit reminds me in my own “child-likeness” to trust God fully, to live in the moment in His presence and to remember, that Jesus valued children so much that He said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:13-14).

After all, Jesus entered the world as a child to begin the sacrificial work that God, the Father, had given Him to complete in His adulthood. We can enter into our child-likeness, especially during this Advent season, as we trust God, as we gleefully anticipate His birthday celebration and as we participate in each waking moment of His presence to us. We are also on a journey for Christ to complete His transformational work in us from childhood through adulthood.

EMMANUEL: GOD IS WITH US, in our “child-likeness” places of soul and that means even when we bake Christmas cookies with others or just Jesus and me!

Ornaments of Christ…a post by Joy

One of our family traditions when we are able to be together at Thanksgiving is to go to a Christmas tree farm the following day, go on the “hayride” tractor to choose the tree, then 1-2 members of the family collaborate to cut down the tree.

Hot apple cider is usually served at the farm, then we head home to “trim the tree.” Hanging the ornaments on the tree is a reminder of life that we have lived together for each has a particular meaning or memory attached to it.   Glass ornaments that are from one of our grandparents’ tree reminds me that this is a celebration passed on from generation to generation. Handmade ornaments made by our children when they were young exhibit how Christ loves us at all of our stages of spiritual transformation. Those ornaments made by their young hands and hearts are priceless to me. I’m reminded that Christ loves the ornament of “my gift” of whatever I am able to offer of myself to Him at different stages of my life.

This tradition is not just about decorating the tree. It’s about honoring each person: family member or friend, and a memory of how God brought our paths together. This is a tradition that helps prepare my heart through the Advent Season of reflecting on the goodness of God.

God valued us as human beings enough to send His ONLY SON, to become a human being.   As ornaments of Christ, or reflections of who He is fully in the Godhead, some may sparkle; some “just hang” onto the limb; some may lie on the branch; some of us may just blend in with the tree and not really want to stand out. All of us have a purpose to reflect His gifts of peacemaking, helping, loving, showing mercy, creating, advocating for others, joyfulness, loyalty, being organized and efficient with abilities of creating order, and discerning with wisdom.

All of these ornamental gifts are able to be reflected by the presence and working of the Holy Spirit in us through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. May you each have a blessed Christmas filled with the joy of noticing His presence!

Advent and the Particularity of God’s Love…a post by Rich

The season of Advent is upon us and as Christians we turn our hearts in preparation for the coming celebration of the birth of the Messiah, our Savior. A theme we often attended to here at CrossPoint is the particularity of God’s love. Thomas Oden considered the incarnation the “scandal of particularity.” God in his wisdom makes himself know to us in and through a very particular Jewish man. But there is more to the scandal than God simply making himself know in Jesus. The crux of the scandal is that this Jewish man, with a real family history -hence the gospel genealogies- is in fact the Son of God! God is now made know to us and is with us in Jesus. As Jesus put it, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. . . “ (John 14:9) And as the writer of Hebrews makes clear, “but in these last days he has spoken to us in his Son . . . He, (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God (the Father) and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Heb. 1:3)  Scandalous it is, to say the least. God loves us in this very particular person, Jesus!

There is endless mystery and beauty within the story of our Savior’s birth. The humble and yet truly beautiful response of Mary to the Angelic announcement. The Angelic confirmation for the anxious Joseph that comes to him in the quiet dark mystery of a dream while sleeping. The notoriously dishonest Shepherds are the first to herald the good news- ah, God’s ways are not our ways. And the deep longing of the wise men compelling them to follow a star surrounded by the heaven’s darkness. And there is much more that is filled with beauty and wonder. But that which is most beautiful and for sure the grandest of all mysteries is that in this particular Jewish man, this Son of God, has come to show us the love of God and in so doing loves each one of us particularly.

The particularity of God’s acts in Christ manifests the particularity of God’s love. God’s love is not a generic love but it is a specific particular love of individuals. It is a love that greets individual men the likes of Andrew, Peter, James and John. It is a love that reaches out to the woman at the well. He touches deeply the lives of Mary and Martha. It is the love that notices the woman in the crowd who suffered so long and touched him. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. The blind man crying out for mercy, and Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” There is the widow of Nain whose only son died. Jesus notices and raises him from the dead. The gospel narratives tell us again and again of the wonder of the love of Christ that is specific and particular. A love that greets each person in the depths of their soul. And it is no less true for you and for me! What wondrous beauty what glorious mystery that we should be loved in Christ so deeply and lavishly by our Heavenly Father.

The humility that blankets the entire gospel narrative of the birth of Jesus points ahead to the great humiliation of the Cross. Here the love of God shines forth in its fullest glory for “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) The love of God is this particular! God’s love addresses the specifics of our individual and corporate sin. It enters the darkest places of any and every individual’s soul and brings “the light of life.” (Jn.8:12) And all of this love comes to us as a gift of grace, even more beauty and mystery. Who can truly comprehend this love? We need only to surrender and trust.

Our Savior has come! Immanuel, God with us. So then, we rejoice! We give thanks. And we rest in him. May it be so for each and every one of us in this Advent season. May we again receive afresh the love of God who sent his Son as our Savior and the Savior of the world!

Thank God for God in you…a post by Tom

This Sunday kicks off the first week of advent.   It seems like we just downed the last of the leftover turkey and now we are wading into Christmastide! This holiday season there are ample opportunities to be thankful. We can be thankful for all kinds of things such as material possessions, health, relationships, and the simple pleasures of life. However, the Apostle Paul begins his letter with a hearty thanks for God’s operative work of grace in the lives of those he cares about in Corinth. Paul is thankful for the God he sees at work in his loved ones.  In an oppressive and negative world, thankfully God is at work in others enriching them with Christ. When I see Christ in you then I can better experience the Christ in me! What else is there? Thank God for people like you who make Christ real and incarnate.

 

1 Cor 1:3-9

Brothers and sisters:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always on your account
for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,
that in him you were enriched in every way,
with all discourse and all knowledge,
as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you,
so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He will keep you firm to the end,
irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful,
and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

Merry Christmas from CrossPoint…a post by Rich

We at CrossPoint Ministry wish you all a very Merry Christmas. In a world polarized by and riddled with fear there is no greater message than of the one who is called “Immanuel” God with us. The Christmas story is magnificent in many ways. The angelic announcement to the shepherds of “good news of great joy,” the noble humility of Mary and her words “let it be to me according to your word,” and Joseph’s dream marked by the angelic voice saying, ‘She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” And of course Joseph’s ensuing obedience to what he had heard. The magnificence of the arrival of the one who is “the Son of the Most High” is shrouded in simplicity, obscurity, and poverty.

Christian orthodoxy has for centuries contended that this child in the manger is the Mediator between God and man. He is the Mediator of the created order. All things are created by him, through him and for him. (Col. 1) He is the one in whom “all things hold together.” The very nature of this infant child is the one who creates and sustains all that is! Since the Son of God is the mediator of all creation everything in the created order is structured for relational participation. Nothing exists except through him and for him. Everything that is has his personal touch upon it. As Paul would say, “He is the firstborn over all creation!” God is with us beckoning us in all that is created to see his invitation for connection and communion.

But this God who structures the universe for relational participation seeks personal relational communion for his glory and our good. So the Son of God is born in the fullness of time and will save us from our sin. Sin anchored in mistrust is the great adversary of communion. The Son of God the very outpouring of the love of God comes so that we may each be loved beyond measure and by grace we are given faith to receive life in his name. And this life is eternal life because it is the very life of the Trinitarian God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is with us! He is with us in the depths of our being. His Spirit is permeating our souls ensuring that as sons and daughters of the living God we shall in Christ find the glory of Christmas becoming progressively more and more, “one degree of glory to another” our glory.

So Merry Christmas to you all. Whatever your present lot in life, whether joyful or sad he is doing far more in you than you think or imagine. He is the God who gives gifts that are beyond our comprehension! And so we say, thanks be to God for the Savior of the world, our Savior, has come and is coming.

“What If God Were One of Us?’

Several years ago a popular song raised the question, “What if God were one of us?” Though some of the language in the song feels irreverent, the question is a good one with a startling answer. A baby born in Bethlehem is ‘Emmanuel’ which means “God with us!” God is now “one of us.”

And if that is not startling enough, we are told that God became one of us so that we might become one with God (“partakers of the divine nature’ to quote the Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 1:4). The focus of Christian spiritual formation is honoring the purpose of God becoming one of us. It is living into the reality of the divine nature within us through the Holy Spirit. This is not something manufactured by self-help pop psychology. It is all a gift of grace, the gift of the gospel, the gift of Christmas.

In just seven days, “God becomes one of us!” What a gift.