Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20–21
Although this is the season when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus (amidst all the other trappings of Christmas), there is always a need to be reminded that Jesus is not a baby anymore. He is the crucified and risen Saviour of the world, and these great verses from the last chapter of Hebrews speak of this fact in no uncertain terms. The power of the Christian gospel lies not in the birth of Jesus but in his death and resurrection, and this is what equips us to lead our lives as Christians.
In the 1st century when the letter to the Hebrews was written, there was no “church” as we know it. There were small and sometimes isolated Christian communities dotted around, some as small as 20 or so, even in larger cities. There was no Bible as we have it, no organised ministry or priesthood, no seminaries, no set teachings except for the various writings of Paul and others, and no celebrations of festivals as we know them (Christmas did not yet exist!).
So, what drove the early Christians to be exceptional? What motivated them? What equipped them to deal with the difficulties of being Christians in a pagan society? What enabled ordinary Christians to preach the word of God? What enabled them to live distinctly Christian lives that clearly marked them out as different from their neighbours or co-workers? It was the resurrection. It was this glorious fact that proved beyond all doubt that Jesus was Messiah, Lord and Saviour; and it was enough to empower and equip them.
It is a good and challenging reminder that, when all else is taken away (as it is for many Christians in hard places of persecution), the only thing that remains is the crucified Risen Lord and His Life born in us for eternity; everything else is just secondary. This is our faith and I pray that throughout it “we may equipped to do His will and what is pleasing to Him” in all seasons.
Let us look to the crucified risen Jesus by:
- Thanking God for the joy and hope through Jesus; and,
- Asking God to help us witness faithfully to others and to give strength and perseverance to Christian brothers and sisters celebrating Christmas in difficult situations.