“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:8-10).
Christmas is a centuries old celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, descended from David, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Immanuel, God with us, more than man, God, the Son of God, in the flesh, this is the claim of the gospel of Christ. Max Lucado describes the wonder and awe of God with us. “The omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierceable. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. And he who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl” (God Came Near, 25).
The Son of God came among us to give himself in the inconceivable surrender of his life in death on a Roman cross. More inconceivable is that in his death he took upon himself the sins of humankind. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.” His resurrection was the powerful declaration of his identity as the Son of God (Romans 1:3-4). The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the source and the assurance of justification, forgiveness, salvation, and hope for those who place their faith in him. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also” (1 Corinthians 6:14).
When the apostle Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, Paul was a prisoner, in chains for the sake of the gospel of Christ he preached. Note his words, “but God’s word is not chained.” As I read this the other week my thoughts went to my grandson Sully who died at the age of fifteen months after a thirteen month fight with leukemia. I also thought of all the other children who have died from and who are suffering and battling pediatric cancers. (Today, December 15, 2012, my thoughts are also with the children who were violently murdered yesterday in Newtown, CT, and the children who went through the horror and survived. My thoughts are with the parents, siblings, grandparents, all family members and friends. My eyes and heart have filled with tears more than once this morning.)
Pediatric cancers chain the children with suffering. Parents, siblings, grandparents, are chained by the desperate hopelessness of watching and being unable to relieve the suffering, unable to stop the dying. The chains of suffering, of tragedy, of grief, of hopelessness, whatever the cause, harshly imprison the body and the soul. “But God’s word is not chained.” The chains of suffering and oppression, whatever the cause, cannot chain God’s word. The hope and reality of salvation and eternal glory that is in Christ Jesus cannot be chained. Death itself cannot chain the hope that is in Christ Jesus.
While the present chains seek to destroy hope, the word of the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ break the chains binding our hearts and souls. The physical chains might not be broken, but the heart and soul are freed in Christ to hold confidently to the hope which is in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him…he will remain faithful” (2 Timothy 2:11-13).
(This post, with very slight revision I first posted this morning at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/sullivanbubbyfarrar. This site is in memory of my grandson. I have posted there a number of pictures from Sully’s only Christmas in 2007.)