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Coxy's Christmas Message 2017

The mystery of Godliness

22nd December 2017

In the middle of a pastoral letter to his friend Timothy, Paul writes these wonderful words about the mystery of godliness.

1 Timothy 3v16
Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.

Beyond all doubt Jesus is a mystery to a lot of people. Some people even seem to believe that He never existed, despite all the evidence. And when we read that "He appeared in a body", when we understand that, as we sing in that great Christmas Carol, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing", Jesus is "Christ the everlasting Lord", that He existed long before He was ever in Mary's womb, that He's the Son of God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, we realize we can't fully understand how that works.

In the same carol, we also sing "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity, Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel". Strange though it may seem to some, this is the truth. Jesus is God, veiled in flesh. He is God incarnate - God in a human body. Emmanuel means "God with us" and that's what the Christmas story is all about. God loves humans so much that he wanted to come to earth in the person of Jesus and live with us, share our experiences, and teach us about himself.

How can we know that Jesus was God? Well, Paul says that he was vindicated by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gave Jesus power to heal the sick, drive out demons and even raise the dead. It's hard to argue with that. And after the government and the religious leaders had killed Him by crucifixion, He rose from the dead. It's hard to argue with that, too.

But Jesus also spoke the most beautiful words mankind has ever heard. He changed how we think about right and wrong, how we think about God, and how we think about each other. He taught us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. He taught us to leave vengeance alone, and trust God to do justice, either in this world or the next. He taught us to forgive, and He taught us that we can experience God's love individually, and come to know God personally.

Jesus was seen by angels: the angels we read about in the story of the shepherds, and the angel that helped him in the garden of Gethsemane, and the angels that witnessed His rising from the dead and walking out of the tomb.

Paul says that Jesus was preached among the nations and, after two thousand years, He's still being preached among the nations. Not bad for a carpenter's boy from Nazareth. Not bad for a baby conceived by an unmarried girl in an ancient culture, in a poor village in a occupied country.

And Paul says that Jesus was believed on in the world. Billions of people across the globe believe in Jesus. We don't only believe He existed. We don't just believe He performed miracles. We believe He was crucified to pay for our sins. We don't just believe it's a nice story, we believe it's historical fact, and we believe that because our sins are paid for we can experience God day by day and we're destined for an eternity in heaven.

Jesus was taken up in glory. Forty days after He rose from the dead, He ascended back to heaven, where He'd come from, and He's now seated on the throne in heaven. He's where He should be. He's home. He's with His heavenly Father - our heavenly Father, too.

But He's coming again. One day, He'll return to earth. He'll judge us all. Justice will be done. And those of us who did our best to do the right thing, and who trusted in His crucifixion to pay for when we failed, will be with Him for ever and ever.

Just a carpenter? I don't think so.

Can you believe that Jesus wants to be Emmanuel for you? Isn't that why He came?

That's why we can celebrate the baby in the manger in the stable. He wants to come into our lives, heal our pain, help us think clearly, pour His Holy Spirit into us and give us real life. Will you welcome Him? Will you put your trust in God, who came to us as a baby, died for us and is now reigning as King of the Universe?

The mystery of godliness is great, indeed, but I'd rather serve a God I can't fully understand than live without Him. And when you think about it, He wouldn't be much of a God if people like you and I could understand Him. We can embrace the mystery of godliness, or we can live without it. I know which choice I've made.