As we journey through the Advent season, let us reflect on why Jesus came down from heaven to live and move among us. Matthew 1:21 says, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Yeshua, because he will save his people from their sins.” Yeshua is Hebrew for “the Lord shall save,” and can be interpreted to refer to the atoning work of Jesus at the cross. He came here to save us! Iesous is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua, and its English spelling is “Jesus,” the name we find in our English Bibles. As his name reflects, the birth of Jesus is part of God’s plan to save us from our sins, so that we may have eternal life with Him.
God gave Jesus his name and, by doing so, announced to the world that He had provided a Savior for us, a way out of the predicament that we all find ourselves in. Romans 6:23 tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God gave us the greatest gift of all on Christmas morning, in the humblest of surroundings: a manger. He sent His Son Jesus into the world to save us from the consequences of our sin, and Jesus willingly went. What kind of love drives that? What kind of love leaves the glories of heaven to be born in a stable and to walk upon a broken world and call it his home? Only an incomprehensible, unconditional, passionate love could do that. That was the love that was born on Christmas day!
Reflection: Think of all of the gifts you have received in the past. Many of them came to you in beautifully wrapped packages, or with some type of fanfare. Now imagine being handed a brown cardboard box. Don’t let its plain appearance fool you. You can’t tell a gift by its wrapping. Open it slowly and peer inside. See in your mind’s eye a baby, born in a lowly manger, God’s gift of eternal life to you, in Christ Jesus, accessible to everyone. The packaging isn’t auspicious, but the contents are precious beyond measure!
I posted this recently on Facebook: My heart is so happy – I’ve been dreaming of having this picture hanging in our home for years and today it happened! He came for ALL of us! Every time I look at it, I feel incredible joy.
A good friend of mine asked me what this picture represents. The title given this picture by the artist Ron DiCianni is Simeon’s Moment, but it is a moment that we can all share in. Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord and Simeon is holding the baby Jesus.
When I look upon Simeon’s face, I can see the inexpressible joy that he is feeling. God gave Simeon a very special gift which we can find in the Bible in the second chapter of Luke. Verse 26 tells us, “It had been revealed to him [Simeon] by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.” What must it have been like to live a long full life and enter into old age while clinging to that hope! I can only imagine the incredible delight Simeon must have felt as he held in his arms the salvation of the world.
After living a long and faithful life, Simeon’s Moment represents the culmination of the promise that God has given to Simeon and to all of us: a way out of the desperate condition that we all share, a way out of our sins, so that we can be in fellowship with Him and have eternal life. Matthew 1:21 tells us, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.” Simeon holds our salvation in his arms – the light of the world come down from the heavens in the form of a helpless baby, because He knew we were all in need of a Savior. Simeon’s words (Luke 2:29-32) states it so well:
“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.”
But it’s not only the ecstasy on Simeon’s face that I can relate to, in which God’s promise for the redemption of humanity is being held in Simeon’s arms. I also love how the artist echoes Simeon’s words and created a global presence interwoven into the fabric of the picture, which shows that Jesus is not only for Simeon, but that He came for the entire world. It fills my heart with joy to see the expression of the Gospel in Simeon’s arms. Love has not come for just one people, but for all peoples, so that we all may be saved. Hallelujah!
Finally, the tear that Simeon sheds is subject to interpretation. Perhaps it is a pure expression of the emotion he is feeling. Perhaps it is a response to what he knew was coming – this man of God who surely studied the Hebrew Scriptures all of his life and understood the prophecies that were to be fulfilled glimpsed the future – that this precious baby that he held in his arms would one day carry the weight of the world’s sins upon His shoulders and the price of love would cost Him everything. Simeon’s words to the baby’s mother, Mary, in Luke 2:34-35 testify to this:
“This child [Jesus] is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
What must it feel like to hold your salvation in your arms? We may not be able to experience it the same way Simeon did, but we can surely experience it for ourselves – and if you choose to ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior and follow Him, I believe you will feel what Simeon feels. If you want to learn more about the babe in Simeon’s arms, the Book of John in the Bible is a great place to start. You may also want to consider reading about Jesus in this easy-to-read devotional that I wrote which celebrates His coming from heaven to be born in a manger on Christmas day, Taking Back Advent Moving from the Mundane to the Miraculous.
This letter has been many years in coming. It is a hard letter for me to write, because I love all of you so much and I would never want to offend you. But I feel compelled to write these words, because of that love – I want to see you in heaven.
If you know me, you know I have always been respectful of those who hold different beliefs from me. I have been so blessed to have made friends from many different countries and the most joyful times of my life have been getting to know people from cultures very different from my own.
Anyone who knows me, also knows I am a Christian. I do not take my commitment to being a Christian casually. While I am not always successful, I do my best to live according to God’s instructions in the Bible. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” My hope and desire is that my daily actions reflect the love of Christ to those around me.
Some important things to know about Christianity:
A Christian believes that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. In other words, whatever it says has come from God and is true. What I read in the Bible, I can trust.
God loves EVERYONE. Really, it’s true! It doesn’t matter what you have done in the past – you can’t change the fact that God loves you and He wants to be in relationship with you – that is why He created you! If you are worried because you have done bad things, sadly we all have. That’s called sin and it separates us from God, because He is holy and without sin. But the good news is, no one is so far from God, that they can’t be forgiven and enter into His family. God’s love is unconditional. It’s important to know that God’s grace is offered to all, but He gives us a choice. The only requirement is for a person to choose to accept it by believing in His Son, that Jesus came to Earth, died for our sins (taking the penalty of sin in our place), and was raised from the dead, giving victory over death and a place in heaven for those who believe in Him. If you do, your life will never be the same! You will have entered into a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. Our God is a God of relationship. He wants to have conversations with you. He wants you to depend on Him. He is always available to you. In fact, His Holy Spirit provides both guidance and comfort to those who believe. The Holy Spirit also convicts us, helping us to live a life pleasing to God. Mind-boggling, I know. It’s hard to comprehend, but it’s true!
We read in the Bible in John 14:6, Jesus answered,“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
So from a Christian perspective, one must have a personal relationship with Jesus in order to “come to the Father” and gain entrance into heaven. In order to do that, they must ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior, and trust in Him for their salvation. Thus, my dilemma. I believe that in order to have salvation, one must accept the same things I believe, even if you come from a different country and/or was raised in another religion, or no religion at all. Even if you try to be a good person. No other religion meets this requirement and no one is good enough to get into heaven by their own efforts. Salvation is a free gift, but a person must choose to accept it and place their faith in Jesus. Knowing I believe this, if I am truly your friend and I love you like I say I do, I must be concerned about your eternal destiny. How can I not share this with you?
Putting myself in your shoes – my first reaction might be – how unfair! How exclusive! Why can’t all paths lead to heaven? Why does a Christian think they are better than everybody else?
My answer to the last question starts us on our journey: A true Christian KNOWS they are no better than anyone else. It is the same desperate need that we all have to be cleansed from our sin that makes us all equally in need of a Savior. Sin separates us from God. We can’t fix our situation – only Jesus can, by taking the penalty of our sin for us. Jesus offers to do that for each and every one of us. No other path provides the atonement required to satisfy God’s wrath because of our sin. No other path forms a bridge over the yawning chasm of our sin, so that we can enjoy God’s presence for eternity.
While the entrance to heaven is exclusively for those who call upon the Name of Jesus, Christianity is far from exclusive. God wants EVERYONE to be reconciled to Him. It doesn’t matter where you are from, your cultural background, what color you are, or what language you speak, ALL are welcome.
Does this seem unfair? I personally am grateful to Jesus that I am not treated fairly, because if I were, I would have to suffer for my sin. I am grateful that God so loved the world that He created a way for us to enter heaven by being unfair: He sent His only Son to die for us, in our place. In the Bible, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved THE WORLD, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” THE WORLD – all of us!
I can tell you about my own relationship with Jesus – how He has changed everything in my life for the better and walks alongside me, comforting and helping me through my greatest trials. How He is faithful even when I’m not, and He loves me despite all of my sin. I also know I am going to heaven with certainty, because I have placed my trust in Him.
When I expressed my concern to a dear friend of mine who is Muslim, regarding his eternal destiny, he responded: “Perhaps God will open my heart to Jesus. It is up to Him.” His words were so wise! That reminded me that I am not the one who can convince you about who Jesus is and the grace that He offers each one of us, that is up to the Holy Spirit to move in your heart. It is my prayer that He is moving, even now. I love you.
If you have read this, and I managed to offend you, I am truly sorry. But from my perspective, your eternal life is at stake. If I truly love you, I have to at least try to share this with you. If you are curious and have questions, I would be glad to answer them and if I don’t know, I will find out. Whatever you choose, ultimately the decision is yours and regardless, I will always be your friend. Thank you for allowing me to share my heart with you.
If you find yourself wanting to learn more – the video below is an amazing message because it teaches us about the incredible, extravagant, incomparable love God has for us, and it also explains the cross – something that puzzles many people. If you have ever wondered why the Son of God would allow Himself to be crucified on a cross – this is a great sermon to listen to. Spoiler Alert: It has everything to do with God’s love for us!
If you are short on time, the sermon begins at approximately 20 minutes. However, I think you’ll be especially blessed if you have the time to watch the entire service. God tells us in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” My prayer for you is that you find God and rest in His extravagant love for you.Amen