A Christmas Creed: He Comes To Us
I read to you from the 2nd chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Luke 2, beginning at verse 21. This is the Word of God. “And at the end of eight days when Jesus was circumcised, He was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the Law of the Lord, every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord, and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. Now, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And inspired by the Spirit, he came into the temple. And when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for Him according to the custom of the law, Simeon took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said, ‘Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Thy people, Israel.’ And His father and His mother marveled at what was said about Him.” Soli Deo gloria, to God alone be the glory.
Let us pray. Now may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, oh God, our Rock, and our Redeemer. Amen.
I want to talk with you about my favorite subject. I want to talk with you about my Lord and my Savior, Jesus Christ. And today and for the other Sundays of Advent, the Sundays which precede and prepare us for Christmas, I want to talk about Him in terms of what the Apostles’ Creed has to say about Him, about His birth, about His entrance into human life, and about what that means for you and for me. For it is my hope that by so doing, we shall gain a new meaning from the old, old story of Christmas. And I want to begin today by looking at just two words, Jesus Christ.
We say in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of Heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ.”
Look with me now at the first of those two words, Jesus.
I don’t know if you are aware of it or not, but in first century Palestine, the name Jesus was a very common name. As a matter of fact, it was every bit as common as Tom or Dick or Harry today. And yet, by the middle of the second century that was no longer true. You see, the Jews, after their rejection of Jesus of Nazareth, refused from that point on to give the name Jesus to any of their children. And not only that, but the Christians who had come to regard the name as being somehow very holy also on that basis refused to give the name to their children. And the result was that within a hundred years after Jesus’ ascent into Heaven, the name Jesus was no longer in common usage. But what I want you to understand is that in the time when Jesus walked the roads of this earth, His name, Jesus, was a very common, ordinary name.
And that’s why I think it’s significant that those who put together the Apostles’ Creed chose to address Him by His common, given name, Jesus. You see, the Apostles’ Creed was written in opposition to a particular heresy which was creating chaos in the early Christian church. The heresy was this. There were some people in the church who believed that Jesus was somehow God. They believed that, all right, but they then denied His humanity. They said that He was a spiritual being, yes, but that He was not really human. He had the appearance of being human, but that appearance was just an illusion. He was not really a man like other men.
Now, that’s heresy. And it was against that heresy that the Apostles’ Creed was written, and it’s for that reason that the Creed has in it a number of phrases which refer to the humanity of Jesus. You know those phrases as well as I do. The Creed says He was conceived. He was born. He suffered. He died. He was buried. Those are all very physical, very human terms. And then to underscore it all, this truth that Jesus was in fact fully human, to underscore that truth, the Creed chooses to refer Him by His given name, a very common, ordinary name in those days. They called His name Jesus.
And that’s what we mean when we say, “I believe in Jesus.” We are affirming our belief in the full humanity of Jesus. He was completely human. He knew what it was to be sick and tired and hungry and thirsty. He knew what it was to be born into the human experience and to grow up like any normal child. He knew what it was to experience both the love and the rejection of other people. Every conceivable human experience that we can name, Jesus knew them all. And it is because He was so fully and completely human that He teaches us how we are to be fully and completely human. And so that means, you see, that if you want to know what it is to love, look at Jesus and see the little children crawling up in His lap and running their fingers through His hair. If you want to know about forgiveness, look at Jesus and see Him taking into His own hands, the rough, crude, profane hands of the big fisherman who had denied Him and listen to Him as He says to Peter, “Feed my sheep.” If you want to know about courage, look at Jesus, and see Him standing before Pontius Pilate in threat of His life but standing there in what could only be described as splendid heroic silence. If you want to know about anger, look at Jesus driving the moneychangers out of the Temple and learn from Him that anger is to be directed only against the forces of evil. If you want to know when to laugh, look at when Jesus laughed. If you want to know when to cry, look at when Jesus cried. If you want to know how to live, look at the way Jesus lived. If you want to know how to die, look at the way Jesus died. If you want to hear words that will thrill your soul and lift your spirit and set before you a challenge that you’ll never reach but you’ll never get tired of reaching for, then look at Jesus, Jesus, utterly and completely human. Every human experience that we can ever know, He has already experienced before us, and He has taught us how to live as human beings in this world. That’s what we affirm when we say, “I believe in Jesus.” He is fully and completely human.
The Bible tells us that God chose to immerse himself in human flesh and in our human experience, and that means that He is involved in our human experience, yours and mine. So when we say, “I believe in Jesus,” we are saying that we not only believe in one Who’s the Lord of all the world, we not only believe in one Who is the Lord of the church, no, we believe more than that. We believe in one Who is the Lord of your life and of mine. That’s what we mean when we say, “I believe in Jesus.”
But look with me secondly at the other word, Christ.
We say, “I believe in Jesus Christ,” and you know we say the two words so easily together that they almost seem to be His first and His last name, don’t they, but, of course, they aren’t. No, Jesus is His name. Christ is His title. The word Christ is the Greek form of the Hebrew word which means Messiah, the anointed one of God. Jesus then is the Christ. Jesus is His name. Christ is His title. Christ is His position. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the one who is king over everything that is. He is the one from whom all history flows, and He is the one toward whom all history is moving. He is the hinge of all human history, and that’s why all of time is divided at His coming into B.C., before Christ, and A.D., the Year of Our Lord. He is the utter perfection of wisdom and goodness and truth and beauty and holiness and justice. He is nothing less than God Almighty Himself.
Now, lest there be any misunderstanding at this point, be assured that Jesus made that claim. He claimed to be God himself. He said, “He that hath seen Me has seen the Father.” He said, “I and the Father are one.” He said, “I not only claim to be God, I am, because I do the things which only the Father can do.” He claimed to be God. But not only that, He took it a step further, and He claimed for himself the absolute authority of God. He said, “All authority has been given to Me. All authority in Heaven and on earth.” He said, “You are to leave your father and your mother, and you are to follow Me.” I want you to understand something. No leader who has ever lived in all of history ever made claims like that. Alexander the Great never made any such a claim, nor did Napoleon, nor did George Washington, not even Hitler, the most demanding of all the dictators, not even Hitler went that far. Jesus Christ is the only one who claimed to be God himself and who claimed for himself nothing less than the authority of God. He is the Christ. He is God, fully, completely God. He is Jesus, fully and completely human. And He is the Christ, fully and completely God.
Now how can this be? I mean, how can He be fully God and fully human and all in one person? I want to tell you something. It doesn’t embarrass me at all to say to you that I don’t know. I do not know how this can be, how He can be fully God and fully human and all in one person. But that doesn’t embarrass me at all because, you see, I have no interest in a God who can be analyzed in a test tube or encompassed by human language or proven by scientific logic. I want a God who’s bigger than that. I want a God who’s bigger than all of that put together. I want a God so big that He cannot be defined by human logic or definition. So I’m not embarrassed at all to say to you that I do not know how this can be. It is a great mystery, and I cannot explain to you in detail how this mystery can be. And yet, I can show you how that mystery can lay hold of your life.
Let me say it like this. It is when you go with Jesus that you come to know Jesus. It is when you go with Christ that you come to know Christ. It’s in the going that there comes the knowing. It’s when you, like Jesus, hurl yourself into the whirling wheels of life. It’s when you, like Jesus, give yourself to the discipline of prayer and the study of the Scriptures. It is when you take up His cross and follow Him in your daily experience. It is when you commit all that you are and all that you have to Him. It is when you seek to live every single day the life that He’s calling you to live. It is when you do those things that you come to know who He really is.
The man who said it better than anyone else ever has is a man named Albert Schweitzer. He was a genius three times over. He spent much of his adult life trying to analyze Jesus Christ, and in the end, this is all he could say, but when he said it, he said it all. “He comes to us as one unknown, as of old, by the lakeside. He came to those who knew Him not, and He speaks to us the same word He spoke to them, ‘Follow Me. Follow thou Me.’ And to those who obey, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the tasks and the conflicts and the sufferings they will pass through in His name, and as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience who He is.” That’s it.
If you surrender yourself to Jesus, you will know Jesus. If you commit your will and your way to the Christ, you will know the Christ. For if you give yourself to Him, truly, willingly, deliberately, give yourself to Him, make no mistake about it, He will come to you. And you will know, yes, you will know who He really is. Jesus. The Christ. Let us pray.
Almighty God, we believe in Jesus Christ. Let us now live that belief by His power and in His name. Amen.