At Christmas we celebrate the Good News of the birth of Jesus. Isaiah describes it as being like a light shining in the darkness. The Hebrews in Isaiah’s time, six Centuries before the birth of Jesus, felt they had been abandoned by God. As a consequence of their rebellion against God they had lost their spiritual protection and been conquered and oppressed by other nations. Their punishment was temporary. The Prophet Isaiah passed on the Good News that God would intervene in history in the future – through the birth of a child in Galilee (9.1) and “the government will be on his shoulders” (v. 6) This intervention would “shatter the yoke that burdened them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor” (v. 4) – i.e. our human fear of death and separation from God. The Good News was that a saviour would come and redeem individuals from their fear of death and the sin guilt that prevented them from being in the presence of God. To understand what God is doing in history, we need to understand why a saviour was needed, what this saviour needed to do and God’s desire to “make righteousness”. (Isaiah 61.11)
1. Why do we need a Saviour?
I was brought up as a cradle Anglican in a more Liberal environment where it was vaguely assumed that we were all saved by our baptism and only had to live a good life to be included in the heavenly kingdom. I remember mocking evangelicals who seemed to think Anglicans needed to be saved. What I did not understand, until I read the whole Bible myself and became involved in healing ministry, was that:
- God loves us and desires to be in a personal emotional relationship of love – both on earth and in Heaven
- God is holy – so holy we would all burn up in His presence
- Sin is a serious problem – pollutes our soul, makes us unholy
- We cannot ‘do good’ and pay for our sin – without dying
- ‘Banker theory’ of debits and credits is a lie – can’t work
- We cannot save ourselves – we all need a saviour!
2. What does our Saviour do?
- The natural consequence of sin is spiritual and physical death
- We all need a Saviour who redeems us - dies in our place
- This is the Good News of Jesus – Christians believe that in our Baptism we enter a New Covenant with God who promises to forgive us when we repent and put our whole trust in Jesus
- Christians are taught about and Baptized into the life, sacrificial death and miraculous Resurrection of Jesus
- Baptism connects us spiritually and emotionally to Jesus so that our sin guilt can pass from us into the body of Jesus and be included in the ‘sins of the whole world’ that he died for on the Cross – time is different in supernatural dimension
- God’s forgiveness is a gift - Good News of our Saviour
3. What is God doing in coming to us as a Saviour?
In the Readings for last Sunday (Isaiah 61.11) some words jumped of the page like a light coming into the darkness:
“For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.”
· Righteousness means loving, holy and right relationships – in contrast to injustice, violence and oppression
· Baptism Covenant defines right relationship as belief in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as defined in the Apostles Creed
· Baptized Christians are to “continue in the Apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers” (BAS p.159)
· Right relationship includes “resisting evil” and, when (not if) we fall into sin we “repent and return to the Lord”.
· Right relationship includes “proclaiming by word and example the Good News of Jesus Christ” – what we say and do.
· “Seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves” (Baptism Service Promises)
· “Striving for justice and peace among all people and respecting the dignity of every human being”
3. God is “making righteousness” at Christmas by reaching out to us in love and drawing us into right-relationship
This is the light that came into the world with the birth of Jesus. God was doing a new thing. God was not sending a messenger, but coming Himself in human form to establish a New Covenant of Forgiveness that would enable all humanity, not just the Hebrews, to come into and remain in a right relationship with Him.
· A right relationship that is spiritual as well as physical
· A right relationship that is eternal and continues on in another dimension after our physical body dies
· This is the Good News – a Saviour has been born to you!