To Save Us from Ourselves
“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22).
This quote from Tim Keller caught my eye:
“Christmas is the end of thinking you are better than someone else, because Christmas is telling you that you could never get to heaven on your own. God had to come to you. It is telling you that people who are saved are not those who have arisen through their own ability to be what God wants them to be. Salvation comes to those who admit how weak they are.” (From Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.)
“Christmas is the end of thinking you are better than someone else.” That might make a good banner to hang over the front door of every church. At least it would serve up a dollop of humility every time we passed under the banner. Those of us who believe in Jesus aren’t any better than anyone else. Sometimes we seem like we’re worse than a lot of people, but that’s not the point.
God came down to us.
That’s the point.
I think that’s what Tim Keller was driving at when he said “Christmas means the end of thinking you are better than someone else,” because you’re not and I’m not. We’re all in the same boat, and apart from the grace of God, we’re all going down together. It is a big advance spiritually to be able to say, “I am a sinner too.” As long as we pretend we’re okay, or as long as we blame others, or as long as we make excuses for our bad behavior, we are still living in the darkness of denial.
If you ever visit the Holy Land, one of the sites you will visit is the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The church was built over the reputed spot where Mary gave birth to Jesus. To get inside, you first walk across a broad plaza and then come to a very small entrance. In fact, it's so small you have to duck down low to get inside. The entrance is deliberately made low because several centuries ago the local big shots liked to ride their horses right into the sanctuary. The priests felt that was inappropriate so they lowered the entrance to force the great men to dismount before entering the church.
The same is true of salvation. If you want to go to heaven, you've got to get off your high horse. Until you do, you'll never be saved.
God of Grace, turn our hearts away from all self-trust so that we will look to you alone. When we start thinking too highly of ourselves, remind us again that every breath we take is a gift from you. Amen.