From the Pastors' Desks

A Divine Invasion of Life

One of my favorite “Christmas texts” isn’t found in the gospels or the prophets, but in Hebrews 2:14-15. It’s a deep summary of the purpose and power of the incarnation.
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood,
he himself likewise partook of the same things,
that through death he might destroy the one who has
the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those
who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 
Hebrews 2:14–15
It’s a particularly relevant reminder this year. In a world gripped by the fear of death, we celebrate Christmas as a Divine Invasion of life! 
But notice, in the Hebrews text, it specifically mentions that Jesus delivers not only from death, but also from the slavery brought by the “fear of death”.
There is a sober reminder of what that slavery looks like in John 16. Jesus has already celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples. He has told them that He will be leaving them to go to the Father. He has also told them that they will be persecuted (16:2).

They will put you out of the synagogues.
Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills
you will think he is offering service to God. 
John 16:2
But the disciples have faith!
Now we know that you know all things
and do not need anyone to question you;
this is why we believe that you came from God. 
John 16:30
They believe in Jesus! They really do. They are convinced He is the Son of God. But then Jesus says this:  
Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?
Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come,
when you will be scattered, each to his own home,
and will leave me alone.”
John 16:31–32
Jesus knows that their faith, though sincere, is not yet fully formed. Their faith will prove to be no match in the face of death. When the soldiers came - they fled. Their faith in Christ’s identity was not sufficient to overcome the fear of their own mortality. And so they abandoned Jesus at his hour of greatest need.
I think that’s pretty common. I think many of us sincerely believe in Jesus. We are convinced that He is the Son of God. We believe in the gospel story. We believe the Bible is true. But, if we are honest, we are still afraid to die. And our foundational fear underlies a thousand daily cowardices – fear of man, fear of failure, fear of being shamed, fear of suffering for Christ. And they all add up to a lifetime of fears and anxieties that quench our joy, steal our peace, and blunt our fruitfulness.
But we can grow. We can change. The disciples certainly did! Think of the disciples in the book of Acts. The cowards have become courageous! The disciples appear on the pages of Acts as men perfectly unafraid to die. They joyfully proclaimed the gospel of Jesus in the face of threatening rules and a persecuting world. Even when martyrdom began to happen in earnest (Acts 5-6), they boldly pressed on – remarkably unafraid.
What in the world happened to these guys?  
The answer of course is that they witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And Hebrews 2 happened – they were set free from their lifelong slavery to the fear of death in the conviction that Jesus had destroyed the power of death. As the hymn goes, “Death’s grip had lost its chill, since Jesus crossed that river.”  They lost their fear of death – and all the devastating cowardice that accompanied it.
You see, believing Jesus is the Son of God is good – but not enough. The faith that sets the captives free is not merely a faith in His identity but a conviction concerning His victory. That, and that alone, will conquer our fear of mortality, and free us from the slavery of cowardice. Wouldn’t you like to live free of fear? Me too.  Well then – let’s celebrate this Christmas like we mean it. In the midst of a world gripped by the fear of death, let us believe and broadcast the glory of the King of Life!
     Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace
     Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
     Light and life to all he brings, ris’n with healing in his wings
     Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die,
     Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.
     Hark!  The herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King”.

Merry Christmas,

Pastor Dale
P.S. If you’ve wondered why we celebrate Christmas on December 25 (no, it has nothing to do with Roman holidays) read this fun and fascinating article...I didn’t know this!

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