The Supernatural Salvation of Singles
- Tim Laitinen Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2014 1 Jan
Well, here we are.
Heading towards the end of January, with those Christmas celebrations of just a month ago now quickly fading in our rear-view mirrors.
The weeks after Christmas can be cold, hollow, and bleak, even though they follow a month of singing about how Christ fills our hearts with love, light, and life. Ironic, huh?
Oftentimes, we’re left to sink into some sort of winter funk after the Christmas holidays. Society tells us life’s meaning is all wrapped up in family, children, spouses, and lots and lots of stuff. All of the activity, planning, shopping, wrapping, partying, gift-giving, decorating, and church programs suddenly spin to an end, like a starter cord that gets ripped from its motor.
The “silent night” about which we sing between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, even though silence proves elusive amidst the holiday din, now hits us with its silence and darkness. And boy, both of those can hurt, can’t they? It’s like when city dwellers take a vacation to the countryside, in the middle of nowhere, and the first couple of nights, sleeping is almost impossible because things are too profoundly quiet, and the air is inky black without the glow of streetlights.
So, here we are, single believers who’ve emerged on the other side of Christmas, with our old routines back in place, the weather more unpleasant than it was just a few weeks ago, the nesting comforts of decorations now back in the closet… and what’s the next big holiday coming up?
Rub it in, why don’t you? “Bah, humbug,” indeed.
And there we go, forgetting what the Angel of the Lord told the shepherds. He said to “fear not,” right? Fret not. Don’t be alarmed, or dismayed.
Maybe we forget about Simeon and Anna, who had been looking for the “consolation of Israel.” We don’t know anything about Simeon’s marital status, but 87-year-old Anna had been a widow for decades after only being married for seven years. Both of them spent their days, year after quiet year, in the temple, waiting on God and, in the meantime, worshipping him.
The grateful Simeon praised God for the baby Jesus in a beautiful proclamation confirming the purpose of the Christ Child, but he also gave a solemn warning to Mary and Joseph; a warning that doesn’t always make the cut into our happy Christmas services at church.
"This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,” Simeon reminded Mary and Joseph, “and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."
In other words, Simeon appears to darken the joy of meeting his incarnate Lord by introducing the sober reality that this little baby will not be popularly received. That infant’s salvific purpose would be achieved by unavoidable, cataclysmic suffering. Ouch. Not exactly the ego-boost Christ’s young parents were probably looking for, especially since they likely were still grappling with the ever-evolving logistics, implications, and ramifications of raising the Savior of the world.
Fortunately for them, Anna couldn’t contain her joy at also being introduced to the Christ Child, and reading between the lines of the text in scripture, she likely created a more conventional fuss over the infant that attracted at least a more appreciative crowd among the other worshippers in the temple.
Indeed, the pleasure and pain experienced by Mary and Joseph as they raised the Son of God must have been one holy roller coaster of emotions and experiences. Don’t you think they probably found their naturally born children boring in comparison?
By definition, the Nativity offers a heavy dose of childbirth, marriage, and even courtship with which many of us single adults, by virtue of our marital status, may not wholeheartedly identify. While being born of a virgin – and an unwed one at that – represents a specific manifestation of Christ’s holiness, sometimes in the familiarity of a story we can practically recite from memory, we can easily overlook one key aspect of salvation.
And that key aspect is the personal nature of our faith in Christ. We can’t marry into salvation. We can’t be born into it. God doesn’t confer salvation to us based on the faith of our mother, or our father, or our grandparents. We’re not saved because we marry well, or because our spouse lives out such a remarkable faith. Our good kids don’t get us into Heaven. When you get right down to it, there’s nothing biological or matrimonial about salvation.
Consider how the apostle John purposefully phrased not only the birth of Christ, but the salvation he brings to us:
The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God (John 1:9-13).
First, do you see how John corroborates what Simeon had said, back in the temple? That Christ’s own people, the Jews, did not receive him? But look even further, and notice how John describes all of us who are saved.
Faith in Jesus gives us the “right” to become children of God. New birth as a child of God! And not only that, but it’s a right given to us not by our physical birth, or our lineage, or what our parents choose, or even our spouse! That last little phrase in verse 13, translated by the NIV as “husband’s will,” uses the Greek word ἀνδρὸς, or “andros.” Depending on the translation, ἀνδρὸς can refer to a husband or man, implying – particularly in patriarchal societies – that not even the dominant male in a family who desires good things for his family members can confer salvation on his children or spouse.
What’s the point? It’s something that all of us who are saved believe, but maybe need to be reminded of. The point is that we’re not partakers in the world’s most crucial relationship through our marital status. Those of us who are saved, and who have received God’s all-sufficient grace through belief in his Son, whose birth we just commemorated a couple of weeks ago, are saved regardless of our education, ethnicity, economic status, and marital status.
Okay, so you already knew that. But do we live in that truth? Even on gray January days? Do we recognize that we are children born of the Child born in Bethlehem? He is God’s gift to us.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith,” reads Ephesians 2:8, “and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God!”
In the words of the famous carol by Phillips Brooks:
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray!
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
From his smorgasboard of church experience, ranging from the Christian and Missionary Alliance to the Presbyterian Church in America, Tim Laitinen brings a range of observations to his perspective on how we Americans worship, fellowship, and minister among our communities of faith. As a one-time employee of a Bible church in suburban Fort Worth, Texas and a former volunteer director of the contemporary Christian music ministry at New York City's legendary Calvary Baptist, he's seen our church culture from the inside out. You can read about his unique viewpoints at o-l-i.blogspot.com.
Publication date: January 21, 2014