Rev’d Jonathan Gale
Sometimes we forget that the Gospel is good news!
Sometimes our inadequacies, our problems and the simple constraints of life
leave us feeling a bit discouraged.
We have little islands of happiness – like Christmas time – if everyone gets on
okay, but they don’t seem to last.
Our attempts to renew our lives without God (New Year’s resolutions and the
like) are even less effective at reforming our lives.
But the crux of the Good News, we read in John’s Gospel, is that he gave
power to become children of God
God’s power! That’s got to be really effective!
But that’s not the experience of the average person.
There can only be one of two things here:
1. EITHER the Gospel in fact doesn’t have the power to turn us into children
2. We’re missing something in its application
Well, millions of people over the years have attested to the fact that the
Gospel does in fact have the power to turn us into children of God so it must
be the way we approach it.
It’s worth looking at the whole of John 1: 12-13:
12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to
become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the
flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
We’re so used to reading stuff that it’s easy to skim over it without getting the
full force of the words. So let’s break this verse down:
But to all who received him…
There is an amusing and true story from the very early colonial days in the
province of Natal, in South Africa. In those days there were no roads as we
know them, only rough wagon tracks, certainly no railway line, so having a port
was, even if it was very small, an economic lifeline.
In a small coastal town there was a regular character, who was a large man and
who served as the local civil engineer. He was also known to love using
dynamite. He had constructed a new harbour wall and a dignitary was arriving
to formally open it. A mischievous fellow said to our dynamite-loving friend
that the dignitary was very deaf, so he would need to get close to him and yell
into his ear when he spoke to him.
The dignitary was warned by the same scallywag that there was a large wild
man in this new town who carried dynamite in his pockets; hence it would be
best to try and avoid him if possible.
Well you can imagine what happened. The ceremony turned into a farce as the
dignitary keep running away from the man who had built the project and who
was meant to show him round. Fortunately, after the laughter had died down,
someone realised what was going on and was able to calm the dignitary down
so he could formally open the harbour wall!
Like the dignitary, we sometimes are not so willing to receive anything because
we think it might harm us! God won’t! We need to receive him.
Who believed in his name…
Belief means more than intellectual assent. It involves “be living”, putting
everything behind the person or thing we believe in. It’s about commitment,
and it’s commitment, not to a denomination or a set of values, or to a
tradition, but to a person: the person Jesus.
Nearly every believer testifies to a moment of some trepidation at this matter
of commitment. We are never sure of what God might want to do with us, so
the trust involved in committing to someone we don’t know well is huge. If we
don’t feel that nervousness, we should ask whether we know what
He gave power to become children of God…
I said earlier that the crux of the Good News is that he gave power to
become children of God. It’s the willingness to receive Jesus and commit to
him that opens the way for God to transform our lives and that means
knowing his salvation, his healing, his peace and, as the Book of Common
Prayer puts it, “all other benefits of his passion.” who were born, not of blood
or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
This business of being born of God is something of a mystery. Jesus says as
much to Nicodemus when he queried what Jesus meant by, “You must be born
again.” The point is it is something God does in response to our receiving and
committing to Jesus.
He doesn’t have dynamite in his pockets! He wants to make us children of God
and there is no mean inheritance involved in that!
Jesus is the ultimate Christmas present, not so much because he is a gift from
God (which he is) but because when we give ourselves to him, we find that we
receive so much from him in the process. He is the genuine gift that keeps on
God bless you and a very merry Christmas to you!