Friday, December 13, 2013

Remembering the Gospel at Christmas

Our home church, New Covenant Church in Naperville, has been producing an Advent reader with contributions from a number of members of the church. Each day of Advent, one is sent out to the members. What follows is the first of my two contributions. It comes at the end of a week where we've been focusing on preparation.

A Strange and Surprising Reminder

What would you think of reminding an esteemed pastor to remember Jesus? Would you think this unnecessary, or perhaps a tad condescending? After all, he’s the guy given to the study of Scripture, right? Or how about reminding a brother or sister, long ago converted to Christianity, to remember Jesus? Isn’t this a bit odd?

I frankly find it surprising that Paul does precisely this very thing in 2 Tim. 2:8. He tells Timothy, now an experienced pastor, Paul’s protégé no less, gifted by the Spirit for gospel ministry, taught long ago as a young boy by his godly grandmother Lois and his godly mother Eunice—he tells him, pastor Timothy: “Remember Jesus Christ.” He needed to be reminded what ought to be unthinkable to forget. And so surely if Timothy needed to be reminded to remember Jesus, so do we. How prone we are to forget! And perhaps especially at Christmas, here in the modern twenty-first century West, here in the busy and bustling burbs of Chicago.

Remember the Whole Christ and Whole Gospel

As Paul reminds Timothy to remember Jesus Christ, he highlights two high points of the gospel, both pointing to other elements of the whole good news. He tells Timothy to remember Jesus Christ, first, “as risen form the dead”; and, second, “as the descendant of David” (2:8). These two facets of the gospel diamond shine light on all the other facets of the multifaceted single gospel, bringing to light (and to mind—remember!) all of them, summarizing the whole gospel to be remembered. “Risen from the dead” recalls especially that Christ was crucified for spiritual crooks and criminals, that King Jesus is alive and seated at God’s right hand as Lord of all, and that he is coming again in flaming fire with his mighty angels to judge the living and the dead. “Descendant of David” recalls the incarnation (Christmas proper!), recalls the life and miracles of Jesus, and recalls the fulfillment of Old Covenant promises. So remember, Timothy, and remember New Covenant Church, the whole gospel!

The Christian Duty of Remembering

Paul was not alone in urging remembering as an urgent Christian duty (see, for example, Deut. 8:18 and 2 Pet. 1:12; but there are literally dozens of texts). The call to recall is a major theme throughout Scripture. And so if we are to be well-prepared for Christmas, if we are to be ready for Jesus coming again in great glory to judge the living and the dead, we need to exercise our memories in the whole gospel—the first coming, the living, the dying, the rising, the ascending, the seating, and the coming again of the Lord of glory with great power. The incarnation of Christ is part of a theological whole, one brilliant facet of the multifaceted diamond of the whole good news.

So let us remember together this Christmas to remember Jesus Christ. Let us remind one another about Christmas as part of the whole gospel story. And through repeated remembering let us ready our burning, longing hearts for his glorious return! O come again Lord Jesus!

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