Permit me to riff on a popular Christmas song. It's the most mysterious time of the year.
Yes, it is definitely a wonderful time of the year, and I pray that your Christmas celebrations are full of joy. But let us take time to ponder the mystery. The Christian faith bears witness to a truly unprecedented event: the Creator God, the one true God, takes human nature. Immanuel has come to dwell with people.
This basic message about the nature of Jesus the Messiah, standing out across the pages of the New Testament, sets in motion a chain of logic. Further searching leads us to see God's nature as Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - each operating distinctly but in unity of nature and purpose. We Christians are so accustomed to talking of God this way that we grow numb to the staggering reach of the vision.
We can never grow weary of pondering the mystery. So, as a little exercise, let me offer this item from my own practice. In my morning prayer time, I use the daily...
We stand on the edge of the end of Christmastide, with Epiphany coming in a couple of days (January 6). Once more, before this season ends, let us think about the meaning of Christmas. It commemorates the Incarnation of the Word of God. God the Son takes on human nature to save us.
Just how does he save us? And what does "save" mean? The answer to the first question is often lodged in Jesus' death, as well it should be. He saves us by dying for our sins. Yes and amen. But there is oh so much more to the salvation story than the cross, as central and life-altering as it is. Talk of Jesus' saving death (to move to our second question) relates very strongly to forgiveness and restoration to relationship with the Father, or a change in status. This mighty act of divine mercy in Christ is of central importance. It is essential to understanding what becoming a Christian involves.
But again, there is more. And it is that "more" that I want us to ponder. We'll do so by way of...
A number of news articles I have read recently refer to studies of the declining mental health of people here in the United States and elsewhere as we slowly emerge from the grip of the pandemic. One report from the Centers for Disease Control says that as recently as February, 2021, over 40% of adult Americans reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. This same study, like a number of others I consult, mentions also that the hardest hit among us are our young people age 18-29. A society's spiritual problems concentrate and become most evident among our young. Now that is something to worry about.
These reports prompt me to ask, "How are you doing?" How are you doing? Honest evaluation, like confession (which this sort of evaluation is), is good for the soul.
I'm asking a serious question and (perhaps) pleading with us, then, to take stock of our answers to two other related questions, because our honest answers have direct...