Entries tagged with “Jesus Christ”.


My Christmas article for this year is up at The Canadian Lutheran.

“When it comes to Christmas, the picture of the baby Jesus asleep in a manger is etched in our cultural consciousness. We imagine the little Lord Jesus laying down His sweet head in the hay, while stars twinkle away in the sky. How easy it is to forget that this little child is also, in a way beyond our understanding, the God who made the universe. He is the Word who spoke creation into existence (Genesis 1:3 ff; John 1:1-3). And He is the One who continues to sustain creation—the One who holds all things together and gives them being (Colossians 1:17; Acts 17:28).”

But, as I note, that good creation fell. So I ask the question:

What sort of Saviour could heal and utterly ruined creation? What Saviour could restore the relationship between humanity and God? It could be no mere man for any human born would himself inherit the sinful nature of our first parents Adam and Eve. And yet it must be a man if justice were to be done; humanity had sinned and it was humanity that must pay the price for that sin.”

Thus begins my meditation on the mystery of the Incarnation—an event that brings forgiveness for sinners and restoration to a broken creation. Consequently, we celebrate not only Jesus’ birth at Christmas but our rebirth as well.

As we celebrate the birth of Mary’s son Jesus we therefore also celebrate our adoption as children of God. For it was the one that made possible the other. ‘To all who received Him, He gave the right to become children of God,’ St. John tells us (John 1:12). All who are in Christ are made new. ‘Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,’ St. Paul explains. ‘The old has passed away; behold, the new has come’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).”

Read the whole thing in “God in the Flesh: The Meaning of Christmas.”



In my column for the November/December issue of The Canadian Lutheran, I reflect at length on the meeting between Gabriel and Mary at the Annunciation, before pondering the Child she would bear. May it prove useful to your own thoughts this Christmas as we rejoice in the Incarnation.

A brief selection:

You can’t help but notice the contrast between the two speakers in this story: an angel of might and a humble young woman. I like the way the old Basque hymn imagines the meeting. It speaks of Gabriel coming down from heaven “his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame.” It’s a fearsome image, and contrasts beautifully with “gentle Mary,” who “meekly bowed her head.” It is a meeting of opposites. Might meets humility. Heaven meets earth.

What a striking picture of what would soon take place in Mary’s womb! Here One mightier than Gabriel, mightier than all the angels of heaven together is entering into the story. God is sending His own Son into the world. Christ is coming! But how He comes defies all expectations. He comes not in His power or His glory. No, He meekly bows His head. He humbles Himself, taking on the very form of a servant. Here is One humbler than Mary, taking on a servitude greater than even hers.

The article is called “Might meets humility.” Find the rest over at The Canadian Lutheran.


Monday began much like any other day. My alarm clock went off, I rose from my slumber, and then began the typical morning routine. By the time my alarm clock displayed 7:30 a.m., I was grabbing my leather satchel and bustling out the door to catch the bus. I happened to check the time on my cell-phone as I was nearing my office. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it read 6:45 a.m. I was more than an hour early for work. Immediately, I knew I must have mis-set the normal time on my clock the night before when I set the alarm time.

All I can say is thank goodness for coffee shops that open at 6:30 a.m.! A mocha, a muffin, and a few pages into my pocket Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord later, I was feeling a little less tired and a little more insightful. [Check out Concordia Publishing House here for the pocket edition I’m referring to. Small and sleek, it’s a very portable Book of Concord that can go with you just about anywhere.]

As I sat, my mind began to consider how I had been so duped. I was certain it was 7:30 a.m. when I left. The clock in my room told me as much. The reality, of course, was far different. What you see and what you get are frequently two very dissimilar things.

The same is true in spiritual matters as well as in earthly. Jesus warns us in Matthew to “beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (7:15). The old adage “if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a duck” often misses the mark. If it looks like a sheep and acts like a sheep, it may well still be a wolf. So how then do we distinguish one from the other? Jesus tells us that we shall recognize them “by their fruits” (7:20). It seems simple enough. A true prophet will do good things; a bad will do bad.

But the next passage seems to slightly muddle such an easy interpretation. Jesus continues, “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (7:21). The surprising thing for us to consider is that those Jesus rejects seem to have truly thought themselves Christian, and have even borne some measure of fruit, at least by their own account. “Did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many might works in your name?” they ask (7:22). But Jesus declares he never knew them (7:23).

So what – to borrow a rather famous line of Luther’s – does this mean? What fruits does Christ here refer to? What does it mean to do the will of the Father?

There is a dangerous tendency in world Christianity today where people attempt to interpret passages while ignoring the context surrounding them. Each passage must be interpreted in relation to the rest of the book it appears in, as each book was written as a whole book. The Gospels are not just random snippets. No, they were thoughtfully planned and written (see, for example, Luke 1:1-4). As such, we must never forget the context of a passage. Neither should we forget that the books of Scripture exist in context to each other. Each interprets and explains the other.

Turning our attention back to the passages under discussion, then, what does the context tell us? The section immediately following is the parable of building houses on rocks and sand. The wise man “built his house on the rock” (7:24); the foolish man “built his house on the sand” (7:26). The wise man’s home survives the storm, but the foolish man’s does not. The point is clear: Build your house upon the rock.

Let us therefore trace the train of thought presented thus far. We must bear fruit. Those who bear fruit will do the Father’s will. Those who do the Father’s will hear Jesus’ words and obey them (7:24), which is what building the house upon the rock is equated with. But we see now that we have not actually yet answered our own question. Rather, we have simply deferred the question for we still do not know what the rock upon which we build is nor what “building” actually entails.

Chapter 8 is a fascinating collection of events where Jesus heals the sick, exorcises the demon-possessed, and commands the winds and waters to obey him. The section is clearly about demonstrating Christ’s authority and power. He commands the bodily realm as he makes the ill well. He commands the spiritual realm as he drives out demons. He commands the physical realm as he calms the storm. His unshakable, unassailable self thus becomes the Rock upon which we must build. In fact, it is Christ that prevents the disciples from being swallowed up by the wind and rain. He saves them from the storm, just as the rock foundation saves the wise man’s house from the storm. And so we see that it is he that is the solid rock on which we build. He prevents us from being swept away in the flood.

So we have discovered what – or rather who – the firm rock is to which Jesus refers. But what about building? What does that mean? It is interesting to note that chapter 8 is as much about faith as it is about authority. We see the faith of the Leper, who professes without doubt, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean” (8:2). We see the faith of the Centurion who proclaims, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed” (8:8). Christ marvels at this, telling those around him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith” (8:10). Indeed, his very own disciples fail to show such trust in Christ. Later on the boat, Christ not only rebukes the storm but also the disciples saying, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (8:26).

This then is what it means to build upon Christ our Rock. This then is what it means to do the will of the Father and bear fruit. It means above all to have faith. As it is written in John, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (6:29). It is faith in Christ that identifies the true Christian from the false prophet. It is faith in Christ that identifies those who do mere good works from those who do the will of the Father. For it is through faith that grace is imputed unto us. We see that grace in these passages as Christ heals the sick, exorcises the possessed, and calms the storm. His is a grace that saves, that transforms the old into something new. His is a grace that acts through faith, strengthens faith, even creates faith among the faithless. And this state of grace and faith provide us with the tools necessary to live the lives the Spirit calls us to live. We may do the will of the Father by grace through faith in Christ