Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:3 – 10)

It gave me pause, beloved reader, to read these verses in light of just having completed the time of Christmas. Actually, truth be told, I write so far ahead that on the evening I am writing this Christmas Day has not yet come! So I am even more aware of the import of this message from Paul to the Ephesians.

I am also aware that Paul wrote this not that long after Christ returned to heaven. Because of that, his message might have had import for his readers as well. But it is Paul’s explaining the Lord God’s intention so soon after (or in my case, coming up) the celebration of Jesus’ birth that ties together the coming of Christ to the saving action of Christ. And how all believers & humanity benefit from it.

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.” (Verses 11 – 14)

How should we go forward from here? This Christmas season I have become more aware of the impact of Jesus’ birth has for salvation; that this is the origination point for our redemption. I wrote a poem sometime back (actually several decades ago) and at the time it seemed odd to me. But now as I think and reflect on it, the poem makes the very point that I am wrestling with – how do we incorporate Jesus’ birth into the theological telescope that hones in on the saving action of the Messiah.

It seems “painful” to say it, but after a time the birth event fades and the significance of it dims the further we get from Advent and Christmas. And maybe, in a way, my poem was getting at just that.

As a Phoenix from the Flame

Cold, grey ashes spread across a prayer shawl
Slowly turning the purity of white
To a dingy Reality
That tells of unfulfilled hopes
And unfounded dreams.

And upon the alter, good intentions 
Like clumps of kindling
Mar the finish
And confound the cleaning lady,
Who of late, never knew how much soot
One church could produce. 

And yet, there is a chance;
Perhaps a spark
Born of the tinder of belief.
And catching hold
Feeds the flame
That has been carefully nurtured in the heart of the faithful.

And suddenly the altar is ablaze,
Burning with a heat not human.
All is consumed,
Sacrificed,
Freely given;
And the glow draws the faithful and unfaithful alike
Bidding them to warm themselves and spread the news
The cold winter of darkness and despair is drawing to an end.

And a new age is heralded.
"Peace, joy, community, brotherhood and sisterhood;
All are one."
And drawn together
Renewed purpose,
Renewed hope,
Renewed life.

"Come hear the message;
Our Savior, Christ the Lord, King of Kings, Emmanuel."

And so it has happened for eons past,
And so it will happen for eons to come.
The Old made New.
Re-born to new life;
A covenanted people once again.
And learning to live in love.

But it too may pass
As  the seasons go.
Until faith and belief, once again, upon the altar
Are tempered and forged.
And life everlasting comes with triumphant finality
That first began with the baby born at Christmastide.