He Was Coming Into the World – Advent 2019
Sunday 3 – But Some Believed Him
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” (1)
Jesus, the incarnated Creator God, came into the world, but they didn’t recognize him.
Jesus, the promised Messiah, came to his own people, but they rejected him.
But some did receive him...
I think of old Simeon: he was eagerly waiting for God to rescue Israel, and the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. He saw baby Jesus, took him in his arms, and praised God:
“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” (2)
I also think of the wise men who came from eastern lands: they saw a new star in the sky, and according to their astronomical knowledge, they made the deduction that it marked the birth of the king of the Jews. After a long journey (during many months and through many kilometres), guided by that star, they arrived in Bethlehem, found the child, and worshiped him. (3)
I could also mention, for example, the Samaritan woman and the people of Sychar (4), or again the man born blind (5) ...
What do they have in common? They believed him...
“Do you believe in Jesus?”
If I was to ask you that question, you could answer “yes” of “no”, couldn’t you? But what would you have understood of the question?
For some, the question means: “Did Jesus really exist? Was he a historical character?” For others, it means: “What is your religion? Are you a Christian?” But that is not the meaning that the apostle John gives to that phrase, and in fact, he wrote his whole book on what he hoped you would answer to the question:
“The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.”
To say: “I believe in Jesus”, it’s to say: “I believe that Jesus is really who he said he was: the incarnated Creator God, the promised Messiah, the King of the Jews and the Light of the nations, the one who paid with his life the ransom for men’s salvation... my Saviour.”
There is something very engaging in such a declaration. And unfortunately, many say it lightly...
Being Born of God
And here’s another question for you: “Are you a child of God?”
Personally, for many years, I answered “yes” to that question, but on the wrong basis. Because of the culture that I grew up in, I thought I was a child of God because everybody in my family – and here, I don’t mean only my parents, brother and sister, but also my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my grand-parents, etc. – everybody was “Christian”. Also, because my parents raised me in a “Christian” way – I had been baptized as a baby, I did catechism and I received the sacraments... Moreover, I did everything in my power to be a good “Christian” – I didn’t swear, I was a quiet boy, I studied hard and I regularly went to confession.
Unfortunately, no one can claim to be a child of God because of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man (7). In other words, nothing that comes from our physical birth or life gives us the right to be a child of God. It’s a spiritual matter. One must be born of God.
Jesus explained it to Nicodemus, the great doctor of the Law of the Jews:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (8)
And that is a right only God gives to those who believe in Jesus.
So?... Do you believe in Jesus?... Are you a child of God?...
At Christmas, we celebrate the physical birth of the One by whom we can be born spiritually. It’s a joyful occasion, because it offers eternal life. It’s a peaceful occasion, because it brings peace to the soul. It’s an occasion to renew our hope in the imminent return of the Lord Jesus.
Whoever believes in Jesus
is a child of God.
On this third Sunday of Advent 2019,
may the Holy Spirit give us to fully rejoice
in the privilege that God offers
to whoever believes;
and may he revive our hope in the return of Jesus.
Sincerely in Jesus,
Eleazar, the Bellicose Monk
Unless specified otherwise, all Bible excerpts are from The Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013).
(1) The Gospel according to the apostle John, chapter 1, verses 12 and 13.
(2) The Gospel according to Luke, chapter 2, verses 29 to 32; from verse 21 to read all the story.
(3) See the Gospel according to the apostle Matthew, chapter 2, verses 1 to 12.
(4) See the Gospel according to the apostle John, chapter 4, verses 1 to 42.
(5) See the Gospel according to the apostle John, chapter 9.
(6) The Gospel according to the apostle John, chapter 20, verses 30 and 31; bold and italic added.
(7) The Gospel according to the apostle John, chapter 1, verse 13; from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016).
(8) The Gospel according to the apostle John, chapter 3, verses 5 to 8.