The message to Mary and Joseph as to what to call the child seems strange to the modern ear that cannot understand the concept of Sin. Our problem is not the total corruption of our human nature, it is not the fact that we are spiritually blind and dead and an enemy of God. It is more a question of bad parenting and wrong choices in this day and age. We don’t need a “Savior” for that, we need counseling and a good 12 step program. The idea that there are eternal consequences to what we think and do and say is something the modern mind cannot allow itself to contemplate. But the mind driven by conscience does contemplate and it does it as the poet says in the “dark watches of the night”. That is when we stand unadorned with our modern armor and we stand naked before the One “that sees all things”. The One with whom we will ultimatly have to deal.
But even conscicence can be dulled and we seem today to be “reaping the whirlwind”. There was the hint of a conversation I picked up coming out of a gas station over in Minnesota North country not too long ago. I wonder if they talk about stuff like that in North Dakota. What makes it disconcerting is that it was a snippit with no context so of course my brain wants to supply the context. Two young men exiting a gas station and one is saying to the other, “that is the kind of thing that you go to hell for”, and the other young man says; “I’m sure you would if you believed that sort of thing”.
So of course I wonder what was done? Who did it? Was it one of these fellows? What kind of gradations of “bad” do these young people have in their consciences? You can go to hell for murder, but not for lying? Maybe the reverse? So you can see I was having quite a conversation with myself over this when I had a really strange thought – what if what the last young man said was what he literally believes? If you believe in hell, you might end up there! Your chance of going to that bad place only exists if you believe it so obviously don’t believe it and you will be alright.
I have to think about this some more because it gives me a strange pain between my eyes to think about it now, but what if a lot of people hold to that concept? It isn’t real unless I believe it. It takes our statement, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” and does some strange things with it. We have these discussions all the time about the efficent cause of our salvation. I had a Pastor who told me one time that God saw from eternity that I would believe and granted me salvation in Christ. That is the predestinarian controversy run amuck. But what that young man said is echoed by some people who say things like, “you need to open up your heart and let Jesus be your Savior”.
The Christmas story and everything that surrounds it conveys a pretty powerful message – that God intervened in our history – more than that, our history as an objective reality is ordered and settled by God with one thing in mind and that is eternal salvation for those who believe and trust in Christ. Salvation then is intensely personal. “Unto YOU is born this night……………..a Savior”. It is also a gift for the whole world. God so loved…. the world. The reality is there whether we believe it or not and I desperately want to tell those two young men I hope that they believe it. Here is a song that tells about that intensely personal nature of salvation. I wrote it a few years ago and it is based upon Luke 15 – the stories of Jesus that revolve around lost thing being found.