A God Not Made with Hands

(recently published in the Concern newsletter)

At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation of God as we remember Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary. The testimony to the virgin birth in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, and in the prophecy of Isaiah, though often dismissed by modern skeptics  are nevertheless part of a  consistent and essential witness to the fact that in Jesus Christ God the Father presents us with the eternal Son of God. This is not Joseph's creation nor the ideological love-child of some mystic religious community. John identifies him as the pre-existent Logos, the Word of God, by which the Father spoke into being the heavens, the earth and every created thing.  The apostle Paul quotes the earliest praise of the church when he declares, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created:  things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Col 1:15-19 NIV) God the Father declared "THIS is my Son, with whom I am well pleased," and God confirmed this truth as only God can do by raising Jesus from the dead, after he had made atonement on the cross for the sins of the world.

 

In the presence of Christ Jesus the very image of God, there is no room for gods of wood, stone, metal or human imagination. For over 40 years renewal groups of committed United Church of Canada members have borne faithful witness to the unsurpassable revelation of God’s true and eternal character in Jesus Christ. Throughout history endless futile attempts have  been made to replace the truth about God with hollow substitutes but these efforts have always failed. The living and powerful faithful God always remains, while fashionable idolatry is cast onto history’s garbage heap.

Today distorted doctrine, mixed up morality, fuzzy faith and made-over messiahs dominate the fractured landscape of our once united church.  Forty-some years since the “New Curriculum”, 26 years since MMHS,  and now new doctrines that reflect the ascendancy of a relativistic “re-imagined” hodgepodge of religious ideas. Does it seem at times like too much has been lost and the wound is incurable? Yet these false, hand-made substitute gods are already dead. They were never alive!

Kudos to you who remain faithful to the Living One: to the Son, your Saviour, the Jesus of history, faith and scripture. Your heritage is secure, just as their heresy is surely doomed.

Waiting is a very long game with the things of God. In 5 centuries of Egyptian slavery, the Lord did not forget his promise to Abraham. Through 70 years of  exile God sustained and purified a people for himself, and returned them to their ancestral homes. For 400 years the voices of the prophets fell silent while Israel awaited the Messiah. Should they have lost hope just as Quirirnius became governor of Syria? Should they have just surrendered to the “inevitable” when  the tyrant Herod rose to preside as the puppet of the unstoppable Roman machine?

There were two elderly people who doggedly waited in the courts of the temple in Jerusalem. They would not give up their conviction that God would fulfill the promise of his Messiah. Do you wonder how difficult it was for Anna, the widow, to endure the sideways glances of others who quietly scoffed at her naive faith? How many times did Simeon hear the whispers about “that crazy old man who thinks he’s had a vision?”  Anna was eighty-four, Simeon ready to die.  Did they ever feel foolish or useless for hanging onto the promises of God?

We know now that they were not foolish. They were there in the temple ready, like oil lamps of the wise virgins of the parable, when their faithfulness was rewarded and the bridegroom revealed. Will we remain long enough to see God’s hand revealed in this day and age?

There is a reward for faithfulness. Not that any of us have reason to boast in that regard. But we who still work and pray for the restoration of true faith, fervent holiness, the light for revelation and the glory of the living God to fill the earth, can remember Anna and Simeon, whose enduring hope in God was never in vain.  The real, God- given Jesus, born in Bethlehem all those years ago is alive and well today, tomorrow and forever! We who are held by the Christ of Christmas, have every reason to hang onto hope.