By Rev. Gary Lewis
As I write these words the day after Christmas, you, dear reader, no doubt has moved forward with your post-Christmas plans. On this day, though, I am asking this question in a deliberate, deer-in-the-headlight passion. What’s next?
Don’t you think that is the question that the shepherds asked themselves the day after Christmas? The day before, the shepherds heard the angels. The day before, they were mesmerized by the baby Jesus born in Bethlehem. After that, the Bible tells us, the shepherds returned to their flocks glorifying and praising God for what they had heard and seen (Luke 2:20). After that the shepherds went back to work. Surely, they began to ask themselves: What’s next?
What do we do now that we know the Messiah is here? What do we do – what do you and I do – now that we know the Messiah has entered human history and our hearts? What’s next? What do we do now?
All human history pivots around one, crucial, event when God landed on earth to free us all. Bethlehem was the beachhead where God entered human history to save it and us from the tyranny of sin and death.
Jesus Christ, the God-Man Jesus of Nazareth arrived, permanently changing our world, upending the established order of death by bringing life. Now, we need to live into that reality and make it our own – just as Christ Jesus has made us his own.
Much like D-Day on June 6, 1944, the second half of the century unfolded the way it did as a result. When the Allies landed at Normandy to liberate Europe from the tyranny of Nazi rule and the evil of Adolph Hitler, everything pivoted around that central event. Had that not happened the way it did, our history would be much different.
In a very real sense, Jesus arrived to go to war on our behalf. He fought and won the battle, which we could never win, to set us free. From Bethlehem to Calvary, Jesus fulfilled the law through his obedience. He fulfilled the law we could never keep. Jesus gave us the salvation which we could never earn. Jesus opened the way to life, the kind of life we could never live. Jesus reconciled us to God, who we could never see. But now we see God clearly in the face of Jesus, who is our brother, redeemer, Savior and King.
Jesus did not come into the world with the authority of a military general. He fought the war against evil through his perfect love and obedience. He shined a light on human inadequacies and challenged us to do better. His way was a way of peace.
But make no doubt about it, peace came at a price. Just like the peace we enjoy today in our free society; it was paid for by the sacrifice of so many on D-Day and many other battles when evil was confronted.
What’s next? We follow him. The Bible is not silent on this topic. Titus 2:11-14 declares:
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
We make Jesus’ ways our ways.
Following Jesus means going where he goes and doing what he does. Jesus went to those who were least, last, and lost. That’s where we need to go – and that’s who we need to love. Jesus blessed, healed, forgave, shared, and loved. That’s what we are to do as well.
Soon the world will be done with Christmas. By the time you read this, it probably has already moved on to something else. But not for us. Christmas is always today. It is always beginning. It is always and forever here and now.
Bethlehem’s star still shines. Let’s follow its light. Christ the Lord is still being born in human hearts. Let’s share his love. The Messiah is here. Let us be his hands and feet and share his goodness and extend his peace. As we do, we shall become alive. We shall be truly free, indeed.