Jesus said, “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that everyone who has faith in him may not die but have eternal life. It was not to judge the world that God sent his Son into the world, but that through him the world might be saved.”
John 3: 16-17, New English Bible
In recent years, cards and bumper sticker slogans tell us that “Jesus is the reason for the season…” But that just isn't the case. It flies in the face of the scriptural warrant and it flies in the face of our human experience as well.
The Father’s initiative is seen in Bethlehem. Having heard the cries of his people, he responded to humanity’s plea in an expression of grace and truth discovered in the stable manger. Our need prompted the chain of events that began in the City of David and led inexorably to the darkness of a Friday shrouding the Holy City some years later; so the scriptures proclaim, the creeds declare and we believe. Redemption… forgiveness… salvation… drawing the attention of those who know their need in the midst of their struggles.
Our slogans avoid the point. We are reluctant to acknowledge that we are the reason for the incarnation. We demonstrate our arrogance and underscore our need for the Bethlehem event, year after year. We are beguiled and allow today’s prevalent bumper sticker theology to deflect our attention from our own need. We are aloof and beyond any need of God.
That appears to be the heresy of the day. Oh, we believe in God, alright. But, our sense of self-righteousness may prevent us from acknowledging our need of God’s grace. We consider ourselves as generally good, and we have no need of God: of acceptance, of forgiveness, of salvation! Alter-natively, our sense of righteousness may prevent us from acknowledging other’s need of God’s grace. They are not good enough, and therefore they are undeserving of God.
Our sense of distance leads to the exclusion of others, and, ironically, a baby in a stable manger: a baby we consider we do not need but a baby we are prepared to worship nonetheless!
By removing our need of his reconciling love, we place ourselves above the baby and beyond his reach.
He receives our adoration, our praise, our obeisance. Enthusiastically, we say that he is the reason for the season and when we do, we fail to recognize our need of him: a need that first brought him closer to us, than we to him.
We are the Reason
for the Season…
Copyright © 2000 James T. Irvine
Background view: The Soup kitchen at St Helen's, Lancashire
Background Midi: We are the Reason