Descriptions

Online shopping has taught us to be very careful about reading descriptions. Size, color, texture, weight, and even other people’s reviews are all helpful as we are trying to discern what a product is actually like. If you have ever ordered something without paying attention to the description, this may have been part of the learning curve for you. It was for me!

In the beginning of the pandemic, I panic-ordered hand sanitizer from an unfamiliar source and failed to look at the description closely. Where the picture (and the price!!) was indicative of a large bottle that would sit by your kitchen sink for family use, the actual product was a very expensive pocket-sized container. Thank goodness I ordered two!

The scriptures are full of descriptions of Jesus. John 3:16 gives the most concise description: ”For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (I did that from memory … the King James Version was all the rage when this kid was in Sunday School.)

When I was researching scripture for ADVENTuring to the Manger: 25 Devotionals for Christmas, I stumbled upon a great explanation for the ”why” of Christmas in the book of Titus, of all places:

Titus 3 (Contemporary English Version)

God our Savior showed us
    how good and kind he is.
He saved us because
    of his mercy,
and not because
of any good things
    that we have done.

God washed us by the power
    of the Holy Spirit.
He gave us new birth
    and a fresh beginning.
God sent Jesus Christ
our Savior
    to give us his Spirit.

Jesus treated us much better
    than we deserve.
He made us acceptable to God
and gave us the hope
    of eternal life.

Reading the description makes us much more aware of the qualities and special aspects of the subject. Titus beautifully describes the grace that was involved in Jesus’ coming.

I don’t think anyone would argue that some of the best descriptions of Jesus come from the book of Isaiah. This Old Testament prophet had a working knowledge of the suffering servant that was yet to come. His description came with no reviews, as he was describing something that hadn’t even happened yet. Unlike the eyewitness accounts of the Gospel writers, Isaiah only had prophetic visions to rely on … and yet he provided some of the most accurate and beautiful language about our Savior:

Isaiah 53 (Common English Bible)

It was certainly our sickness that he carried,
    and our sufferings that he bore,
    but we thought him afflicted,
    struck down by God and tormented.
He was pierced because of our rebellions
    and crushed because of our crimes.
    He bore the punishment that made us whole;
    by his wounds we are healed.
Like sheep we had all wandered away,
    each going its own way,
    but the Lord let fall on him all our crimes.

He was oppressed and tormented,
    but didn’t open his mouth.
Like a lamb being brought to slaughter,
    like a ewe silent before her shearers,
    he didn’t open his mouth.

11 After his deep anguish he will see light, and he will be satisfied.
Through his knowledge, the righteous one, my servant,
    will make many righteous,
    and will bear their guilt.

He was pierced for our transgressions.

He was crushed because of our sins.

He bore the punishment THAT MADE US WHOLE.

By his wounds we are healed.

Ponder that today. Who is Jesus to you? If you were to write a description of him, what would you say? How would you describe our Wonderful Counselor?

Do this today … and write it on your heart.

Cloud Mountains by Scott Brown

The Why of Christmas

Have you ever found yourself doing something over and over, and not even knowing why? I remember reading a sermon illustration many years ago about a young wife who was preparing her first Christmas dinner for her new husband. She took a beautiful, large, honeyed ham and promptly cut both ends off. Then she placed it in her roasting pan, covered it with foil, and put it in the oven.

Her husband watched this with interest. “Why do you cut the ends off?” he asked. She hesitated for a moment, and then replied, “I’m not sure. It’s the way my mother always did it.” Finally, her curiosity got the better of her and she called her mother and asked why they always cut the ends off of the ham. Did it help it cook better? Did it add to the flavor? Did they prefer the ends to be crispy?

Her mother laughed and replied, “Oh, none of those reasons. I had to cut the ends off because my pan was always too small to fit the whole thing.”

Sometimes it helps to know the why.

We have talked a lot about the “who” of Christmas, the “where” of Christmas, the “how” of Christmas, and even the “what” of Christmas. Did you ever think about the “why?”

Titus 3 (Contemporary English Version)

God our Savior showed us
    how good and kind he is.
He saved us because
    of his mercy,
and not because
of any good things
    that we have done.

This passage helps us to uncover why Jesus was born. He came to save us because he is good, kind, and filled with mercy. But most importantly, he came to save us because we could not save ourselves. We are saved by grace through faith, and not by ANYTHING we can do on our own.

Do you get that? You can’t be “good enough.” Thankfully, that also means that you can be “bad enough” to not qualify for God’s grace. You can’t earn it or be ineligible to receive it….thanks be to God for that.

God washed us by the power
    of the Holy Spirit.
He gave us new birth
    and a fresh beginning.
God sent Jesus Christ
our Savior
    to give us his Spirit.

Jesus treated us much better
    than we deserve.
He made us acceptable to God
and gave us the hope
    of eternal life.

Why was Jesus born on that first Christmas? To make us acceptable to God and to give us hope for eternal life. He cleanses us of our sin and gives us new birth through water and the spirit.

The best part of it all is that we’ve been given something so much better than we deserve. Thanks be to God!

Jesus is the Light of the World by Cheryl Lynn Smith