Lawrence: Go into 2018 by taking a good, long, hard look at the real Jesus of the Bible |

Lawrence: Go into 2018 by taking a good, long, hard look at the real Jesus of the Bible

Tracey Lawrence
For The Tribune

Tracey Lawrence

As the days fly past December, I find myself not wanting to lose sight of the beautiful truths we find in the Christmas story. For one, Christmas really happened, and because it really did happen we can behold the beauty of the Gospel with deeper appreciation and understanding. It's not only historically true but also eternally true.

Before the Incarnation, Yahweh spoke clearly to His people throughout the Old Testament narrative, that He was to be the only God in their life, no pagan god was to rival the "Great I Am." From the beginning of the desert wanderings, the first warning was: "You shall have no other gods before me." And even before that, Adam and Eve fell for the serpent's lie they could become their own gods. Since the fall, we've tried to dethrone the Almighty, as we vie for control over our lives.

The key players who intimately surround Christ's birth had to swallow some serious doses of humility to make room for the miracle. Mary — a young Jewess girl at the bottom rung of importance — takes center stage. When the angel of the Lord appeared to her, like most engaged girls, she was dreaming of a life as a wife, planning to raise "normal children." Suddenly, she went from one societal low to an even lower one. Hark! the angel comes, only to share glorious, terrifying news, which translated, "How low can you go?" It meant, not only was she nothing in the ranks of society, but now she's also an unwed, expectant mother. Joseph also had his lessons in humiliation to swallow. He didn't know God's plan was about to interrupt his reputation and move him down the rung to stepfather to Jesus, even before he could say, "I do." If we follow Christ, humility is essential.

Then Jesus gives up all His beauty and splendor, seated with the Father, the Mightiest and Infinite, becomes ordinary take care of one ugly problem — sin. In the historical context, the belief in a human-God was unheard of. Pagan gods in the Roman world were all impersonal beings, who may throw you a bone now and again, depending on their mood. Everything that the Christmas story asserts was impossible. Yet the prophecies gave hundreds of years before Jesus' birth, prepared the world to receive the beauty of it all.

As I bring these truths with me into 2018, I'm convicted by the Christmas story, and the one, true, God I worship. We cannot place the Lord in the same lineup with the gods of this world. He demands a totally other category, and to make the God of the Bible smaller or compliant with the gods of this age is to miss the miracle of Christmas. I'm afraid there are thousands who attend church in pursuit of pleasing the Lord through moralism. This is not the God of the Bible. I'm afraid many who say they are Christians are making the Lord into a graven image, swallowing only bits and pieces, spitting out the truths that are too hard to swallow. They like the idea of Jesus, but a Jesus on their terms. It's always been this way.

Jude, Jesus' half-brother, wrote a pointed letter to the church warning against false teachers who enter the church without notice. Jude knew his brother, Jesus, was the Messiah, and he knew for Christians to persevere, they were going to have to believe Jesus, the Living Word, and live by the Spirit. Otherwise, the significance of the Incarnation and who Jesus was would be severely disfigured. He lovingly warned, "men will try and divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, build yourselves up in the most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Be merciful for those who doubt; save them from the fire" (Jude 19-23).

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The safest way to proceed into 2018 is to take a good, long, hard look at the real Jesus of the Bible, who was there at Creation, who was Isaac's ram, hidden in the thicket, who was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. His face never changes. Holy. Loving. Infinite. Merciful. He can't be thrown in the same camp as Gandhi, Mohammed or Buddha, or viewed as a moral teacher who gives out free passes to heaven. Dorothy Sayers said, "He was born in poverty and … suffered infinite pain — all for us — and thought it well worth his while."

His beauty calls us to true worship.

"Lord, we lift you up to the highest place this year, and you are in a category all by Yourself. Show us where we have tarnished your beauty, so we might follow the One, true God. Amen."

— Tracey D. Lawrence is an adjunct faculty for biblical studies at Colorado Christian University.