For us And For Our Salvation?

By Geoffrey Boland

…He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. The Incarnation is of particular emphasis in Anglican theology. God has taken on human flesh in the birth of Jesus in lowly surroundings on that first Christmas night when there was no room in the relative comfort of the inn. But that was to be the way of Jesus in his adult life and ministry. He reached out to the lowly and poor, the downtrodden and outcast, and those who needed healing and hope.  

I have lost track of the number of times I have been asked if I have been saved. My response has always been yes.  Then comes the dreaded second question. “When?” For many years my response was, “Two thousand years ago when Jesus died on the cross.” That never seemed to satisfy the questioners. They wanted to know time and place. Now I receive even more bewilderment when I respond, “In the year of our Lord, in a stable, in Bethlehem.” But it’s true. For our salvation he became incarnate.  

Our Christian year begins the first Sunday in Advent when, through our lectionary readings, we are reminded that Jesus will come again. The second and third Sundays we meet John the Baptist and catch a glimpse of the adult ministry of Jesus. The final Sunday in Advent we are introduced to the Virgin Mary, mother of our Lord. I particularly like Year C in our lectionary when we read from St. Luke; because it records that glorious canticle we call “The Magnificat.” It also records another important fact that is often overlooked. The first to recognize Jesus is an unborn baby: John the Baptist in the womb of Elizabeth. Certainly a pro-life message, if ever there was one.  “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb.”   

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord, let us also remember that the season of Advent is one of preparation for Jesus’ second coming. Indeed, the word is derived from Latin, adventus “a coming, approach, arrival.” Thus, we prepare for two comings, one two thousand years ago and one sometime in the future. The first we celebrate every year with holiday (holy day) decorations, office parties, festive celebrations and the giving and receiving of gifts. Is Jesus present in your celebrations and preparation?

Since we do not know when Jesus will come for the second time, our best preparation is to live our lives as His followers, accepting Him as our Savior, and loving God and our neighbor. Two themes emerge during this season: simplicity (born in a manger in humble surroundings) and expectation filled with uncertainty (we know Jesus will come again, but don’t know when).   

What’s so different this year from any other year? There is no difference unless we make it different.  It’s up to you and me.  If it’s business as usual there will be no difference. Advent is the special season when we look forward to the love God has for us in the astounding gift of himself in his Son Jesus. What a gift! What love! Theologically we call this the “Incarnation.”  God takes on human flesh in order to bear witness to the Truth, to give us humans the way to eternal life. Born a child, just as each of us, in lowly surroundings, amidst humble people, to grow to be the Savior, offering himself on a cross for the salvation of all. For the salvation of all: that includes Moslems, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, and whatever else we can think of. Christianity is truly the “religion of peace.” But we must say “yes” to the gift.

The world is full of animosity, deceit, hatred, and terrorism. Into this world comes Jesus, the Christ. That is the “good news” for all. For all who respond there is the offer of eternal salvation in the presence of the love of God.

A recently published book about St. Nicholas by William J. Bennett recounts the story of how Nicholas secretly throws bags of gold through the window of a poor man’s house in order that the man’s daughters will have dowries, enabling them to marry. This has happened twice and the man has almost given up hope that it will happen for his third daughter. The story ends thus: 

“Finally late one night, just as he had concluded that their mysterious benefactor had deserted them, a bag of gold came flying through the window. 
“The man rushed out of the house, ran after the shadowy figure that was hurrying away, and caught it by the cloak. When he recognized Nicholas, he fell to his knees and began to kiss the hands that had helped his family so graciously. Nicholas asked him to stand, and told him to thank God instead. He begged the father not to tell anyone the secret of who had left the gold.  
“Despite his longing for anonymity, Nicholas’s act of generosity set him on the path to becoming the world’s most famous gift giver.”
As we do our Christmas shopping, trying to pick the most appropriate gifts for those we love, we would do well to remember St. Nicholas, who selflessly and secretly gave to those in need, giving the glory to God.  

This is the season when we are reminded of the greatest gift that we all have received—salvation from sin and the hope of eternal life. God—brought into the world through the obedience of a young girl, who probably was not unlike the girls helped by St. Nicholas. We are reminded of that gift yearly as we bow in humility before a child, born in humble surroundings, born of a virgin, the Son of God, the salvation of the world.

Forward in Christ

Proclaiming the Faith and Order of the Church, given to us by Christ.