Robin Martens is the pastor of Kinnaird Park Community Church. Photo: Submitted

Robin Martens is the pastor of Kinnaird Park Community Church. Photo: Submitted

FAITH: Jesus, the Exceeding Joy of Christmas

Kinnaird Community Church pastor talks about the birth of Jesus

Submitted by Robin Martens

Even though our Canadian society and culture is labouring to move past Christendom as the dominant influence most of us still know something of Jesus. That’s because he’s had an absolutely amazing impact on history and on many historical figures to this day. Even Gandhi and the Dalai Lama were highly impressed with Jesus. Notwithstanding, we really don’t know Jesus beyond small proof-texts scattered throughout our thinking. Thus, we miss the entire point of Jesus.

When Jesus first arrived on the world scene as the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah and hope of Israel, his people had already been long in exile (Matthew 1:17). Why? After God had delivered them from slavery in Egypt they continually went on for centuries to turn from him and undo all his loving work in making them a nation for his glory, their good, and the blessing of the world.

What many of us don’t realize is that God selected Israel from among the nations to be an example to the rest of the nations of what it meant to know God. Unfortunately, like the rest of humankind, Israel demonstrated that their hearts were set on the lie of the serpent that they could be their own gods (Genesis 3:5). Thus, Israel in exile is a micro picture of our world. We’re all part of the same big story line.

You may not think this is the case, but all one has to do is consider what scholar, C. S. Lewis, once said:

“Nearly all that we call human history … [is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” (Quoted by Nancy Pearcey, Finding Truth, 11.)

That’s always been our story. It hasn’t worked out. It hasn’t delivered the goods. Still, we look to something other than God. We hope in education, in science, in colonizing Mars, in the next prime minster, in athletes, in actors, in whatever seems to raise our hopes in the moment. Yet, if we but took our lessons from history we might find the hope of no longer having to live as exiles from Eden.

Matthew 1:18-25 heralds Jesus as that better hope! He is the good news. For his name means the “Lord saves,” in that he saves his people from their sins (1:21), and that he holds the title, “Immanuel,” which means, “the God with us” (1:23).

This is what the grand theological term “incarnation” means. God the Son humbly left glory with his Father, stepped into our skin and shoes. He truly dwelt among us, lived the sinless life we have not nor can not, and he went to the cross to pay the full price of our rebellion and sin so we could be completely forgiven and know again our wondrous God — a spiritual return to Eden with the promise of an eternal future when all things are literally renewed forever.

The Christmas story comes down to two responses to Jesus:

One is that of King Herod (Matthew 2:3, 16a). His is a very troubled response, evoking exceeding anger that leads to great violence! In the milder unprovoked form, this response means I will continue to do my own thing and go my own way.

A second is the response of the Wise Men (Matthew 2:10-11). Theirs is one of exceeding joy leading to the wholeness of worship! It means I confess that what we’re doing of ourselves doesn’t work and I’m desperate for something more.

Choose exceeding joy this Christmas! Embrace Jesus as the Eden, the paradise, for which we all long. Say yes to him (Romans 6:23).

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Robin Martens is the pastor of Kinnaird Park Community Church.

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