We tend to use the word “gospel” to refer narrowly to Jesus’ atoning death and justification by faith alone. This is a fine way to use “gospel,” but it's not exactly the way the word is used in Mark 1. So what was the content of the gospel, the good news, that Jesus wanted his hearers to believe?
Isaiah writes, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light"(Isa 9:2). That light came into the world with the birth of Jesus, and all willrespond one way or the other: hate it and him or look on him and be saved.
Just as Jesus tells Nicodemus that human understanding is not enough, "You must be born again," so too would he say to our culture, "Vague overtures of peace and goodwill to men are not enough. You must be born again." And to do that, you must know the only Savior, Jesus Christ, born on Christmas morn in Bethlehem.
The nativity story in John's gospel is short but powerful: “the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory." Jesus was made manifest to his people Israel. They beheld his glory, the glory as of the only Son from the Father. They heard the words of life from his lips. Let us, too, hear the voice of him who still calls to us today to come and see and follow.
When we remember to "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” we find not only comfort when we've sinned, but also motivation to help us not sin....during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and every day of our lives.
God wants us to know him. He is more than a judge and more than rules. The incarnation shows us that the same God who will judge the world is also full of life-giving truth and grace. In Jesus, who is both one with the Father and the Son, God became flesh and dwelt among us; then he died to save us. And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
Reading for December 4: John 1:1-13
Reflection: Man's Response to the Incarnation Shows Us Our Need for it.
Our first advent reflection took us back to the beginning, or at least near the beginning, of our story. We considered the events in the Garden that brought the curse on man and on the rest of creation, and we heard God’s first gospel promise. Today’s reading takes us back even further, to the edge of time itself. These few verses are a profound mixture of majesty and mystery, of surprise and hope. Instead of introducing us to the babe…
After the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, Peter spoke of God's plan for history and its accomplishment through his son Jesus. With Christmas approaching, this reminds us where the babe in a manger that we are soon to celebrate was always destined: glorious king, seated on the throne, all things in increasing subjection to him, until he delivers the kingdom to the Father.
To know the glory of God and treasure Him above all things is what we were made for, but from the beginning we fell grievously short, treasuring created things above God. But God sent His son to be born for us; to be tempted, suffer, and die for us, bearing the weight of our sin and the punishment we deserved. And when the day of judment is done, those who are in Christ will live forever where the streets shine with the glory of the Lamb—because that very Lamb, once a babe in Bethlehem, has saved us.
As those who share in the sin and death of Adam, we ought to sing God's praises without end because he has provided salvation in Jesus Christ whom Paul calls "the last Adam" (1 Cor. 15:45). All that is destroyed in the Garden is redeemed in Jesus Christ. He is the great Answer to the greatest of all problems.