Joy to the World
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7) We are part of a universal family that includes people from every tribe and nation. Entrance is through Jesus Christ, God’s beloved son. Children are born into the kingdom, one at a time. They hear his voice and respond with a faith that comes from surrender. Some experience that love from their earliest memory; others go through their entire life without accepting their need for God. Given a lifetime, Jesus will knock on every door. He comes seeking us. When you hear his voice, answer, “Yes LORD.”
“There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
We have compassion for the underdog, the sick and the homeless, or the one who’s down on his luck. Charities collect money and gifts and distribute them to the “needy” this time of the year and everyone feels a little better for it. But what if those who are truly needy are the ones who are secure, successful, self-assured, proud. Behind the mask may lie a vulnerability that is hidden away from the world. Weakness is scorned; only the strong survive. Jesus asks us to shed the image and honestly consider who we really are. In comparison to what we should be, we all fall short. A common expression is “I want to be my best self.” Perhaps your best self can be seen in the eyes of the homeless or the family reduced to getting their Christmas meal at the food bank. They know they need help. They are one step closer to salvation.
We are never asked to put aside our ambitions or deny the gifts we have been given, but we are asked to honestly consider our motives and allow God to shine a light in the dark places. When a house inspector appraises the home before the mortgage is approved, you want them to find all the flaws so they can be fixed. The doctor is not there to kill us but to preserve our health. Parents criticize out of a genuine concern for their child to develop character and overcome the obstacles that will hold them back in life.
The intelligent and wise believe that they can find all the answers on their own. Even the unknowable is given an explanation. God is reduced to nothing. It was the original sin in the Garden. If we comapare ourselves to Jesus, we begin to see that no one can stand on their own goodness. He turns it all around. Mary was an ordinary young girl, but God saw her heart and chose to come into the world through her womb.
Luke 1:46-55 (KJV)
46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
54 He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
“Lord, you choose the broken and humble in this world to show your glory. Help us to be vulnerable to your Spirit so that you can heal us and raise us up to be our “best selves” under the power of your love and grace.” Amen