It’s Christmas Eve morning in Cape Town and Nancy and I wanted to post one last blog for the year. This year we’ve been reading John Piper’s daily Advent readings together. Here is a paragraph from last Sunday that stirred both of our souls.
“You can read every fairy tale that was ever written, every mystery thriller, every ghost story, and you will never find anything so shocking, so strange, so weird and spellbinding as the story of the incarnation of the Son of God. How dead we are! How callous and unfeeling to your glory and your story! How often have I had to repent and say, God, I am sorry that the stories men have made up stir my emotions, my awe and wonder and admiration and joy, more than your own true story.”
I’ve posted the entire reading below but this is the paragraph that really made us think.
I have one last big assignment for the year, preaching at our candlelight Christmas Eve Service this evening. I feel the pressure of it each year. (My pastor friends reading this know exactly what I am talking about.) Maybe it’s the hype of the season or the fact that we have so many visitors that night and I really want to make an impact for Christ. No doubt, some of the pressure comes from trying to come up with something new to say about the Christmas story, as if the story alone is not enough to wow those who come.
Then I read this from James McDonald. It gave me the perspective I needed to complete my preparations for the service. “Pastors, don’t fear a lack of originality at Christmas. If How the ‘Grinch Stole Christmas’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ can be watched every year, and if ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Santa Claus Is Coming to Town’ can be sung every year, you don’t have to wrestle with something they have never heard before in your message preparation. The power is in the story itself. God came down in a little baby who is the Savior of the world. Go tell it on the mountain!” That was just what I needed to hear and that is just what we will do this evening…telling His amazing story.
Before I go, we have also written to say have a Merry Christmas! Enjoy this special time of the year as we celebrate Jesus, His birth and the miraculous gift of life. It’s been a great year of doing ministry together. I hope you really do feel a part of what God is doing in South Africa. Thank you for your amazing financial support and prayers to keep us on the field sowing seeds!
Please pray for our Christmas Eve service. We’ll be praying for all of you as we make much of Jesus Christ this Christmas. All our love, Tom and Nancy
Here is John Piper’s Advent reading from 22 December, That You May Believe.
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31)
I feel so strongly that among those of us who have grown up in church and who can recite the great doctrines of our faith in our sleep and who yawn through the Apostles Creed — that among us something must be done to help us once more feel the awe, the fear, the astonishment, the wonder of the Son of God, begotten by the Father from all eternity, reflecting all the glory of God, being the very image of his person, through whom all things were created, upholding the universe by the word of his power.
You can read every fairy tale that was ever written, every mystery thriller, every ghost story, and you will never find anything so shocking, so strange, so weird and spellbinding as the story of the incarnation of the Son of God. How dead we are! How callous and unfeeling to your glory and your story! How often have I had to repent and say, “God, I am sorry that the stories men have made up stir my emotions, my awe and wonder and admiration and joy, more than your own true story.”
The space thrillers of our day, like Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, can do this great good for us: they can humble us and bring us to repentance, by showing us that we really are capable of some of the wonder and awe and amazement that we so seldom feel when we contemplate the eternal God and the cosmic Christ and a real living contact between them and us in Jesus of Nazareth.
When Jesus said, “For this I have come into the world,” he said something as crazy and weird and strange and eerie as any statement in science fiction that you have ever read.
O, how I pray for a breaking forth of the Spirit of God upon me and upon you; for the Holy Spirit to break into my experience in a frightening way, to wake me up to the unimaginable reality of God.
One of these days lightning is going to fill the sky from the rising of the sun to its setting, and there is going to appear in the clouds one like a son of man with his mighty angels in flaming fire. And we will see him clearly. And whether from terror or sheer excitement, we will tremble and we will wonder how, how we ever lived so long with such a domesticated, harmless Christ.
These things are written that you might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came into the world. Really believe.