We saw yesterday how the religious experts who read prophecy day in day out, still got it wrong when it came to Jesus.  They missed that one of the ancient prophecies about the Messiah was happening before their eyes.

So what did they miss?  They missed grace and hope.

Religion at its worst can be about building a ladder to heaven, trying to make ourselves acceptable to God under our own power.

But what Christmas means is that God has come to us.  No ladder required.

Two weeks ago, we contrasted grace and law as part of our Becoming Like Family series.

Grace means we have hope.  It’s not primarily about what we do for God, it’s about what God has done for us, and everything we do is a way to say thanks.

The problem is if you’ve invested a great deal in self-help, you may not recognize or accept true help when it comes.  You can be so sure of your hard work that you brush off help saying “I’ve got this!” when you really don’t.

Who would have expected God to come as a baby, much less a homeless baby born in questionable circumstances, with the most common name at that time, Jesus?

But people didn’t just call him Jesus, he called himself God, and others came to do this as well.

Yes, Jesus claimed to be god.  That is a claim that no other leader of a major world religion has made.

Jesus didn’t go around standing on street corners shouting “I am God” in language that plain and simple,  but when you look at what he taught and claimed, he was conscious of, and claiming to be God in some more subtle ways.

And he was subtle for good reasons.  In the culture of his day, saying he was God would have been considered blasphemy – a crime punishable by death.

So he showed it in all sorts of interesting ways:

He spoke of himself using “I AM” sayings – a deliberate hint to the Jewish name of God – Yahweh, which means “I am”.  He also said,

  • he was one with the Father
  • he was the Son of God.
  • he had the power to forgive sins
  • he was greater than the temple – the most important place of worship for the Jews and God’s presence on earth

In the gospel of Mark, Jesus is asked directly by some religious leaders “Are you the Christ (anointed one), the Son of the Blessed One ?”  Jesus said  “I am …”

Jesus was making an incredible and dangerous claim to be God incarnate—which means God in the flesh

One of the central truths of Jesus’ religious context was that there is only one God.  When Jesus started to talk in this way, it was dangerous, but it was also life changing.  He wasn’t claiming to be a new God, a second God, even a demigod.  He was claiming to be the God, their God – the God who created, and then stayed with the Israelites through their history, there with them in an entirely new way.

Question:  Do you know people who change when their boss, or parents, or another authority figure enters the room?  How would the world change when God entered the room?

Reminder: We have a great Christmas event coming December 14th, 2013: The Original Christmas Party.  Hope you’re coming!

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