What Think Ye of Christ? By J.C. Ryle

Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, the son of David. — Matthew 22:42

__________________________

By J. C. Ryle
(1816-1900)

First published by Drummond’s Tract Depot, Stirling, Scotland

manger2Christmas is a season which almost all Christians observe in one way or another. Some keep it as a religious season. Some keep it as a holiday. But all over the world, wherever there are Christians, in one way or another Christmas is kept.

Perhaps there is no country in which Christmas is so much observed as it is in England. Christmas holidays, Christmas parties, Christmas family-gatherings, Christmas services in churches, Christmas hymns and carols, Christmas holly and mistletoe,—who has not heard of these things? They are as familiar to English people as anything in their lives. They are among the first things we remember when we were children. Our grandfathers and grandmothers were used to them long before we were born. They have been going on in England for many hundred years. They seem likely to go on as long as the world stands.

But, reader, how many of those who keep Christmas ever consider why Christmas is kept? How many, in their Christmas plans and arrangements, give a thought to Him, without whom there would have been no Christmas at all? How many ever remember that the Lord Jesus Christ is the cause of Christmas ? How many ever reflect that the first intention of Christmas was to remind Christians of Christ’s birth and coming into the world? Reader, how is it with you? What do you think of at Christmas?

Bear with me a few minutes, while I try to press upon you the question which heads this tract. I do not want to make your Christmas merriment less. I do not wish to spoil your Christmas cheer. I only wish to put things in their right places. I want Christ Himself to be remembered at Christmas! Give me your attention while I unfold the question—”What think ye of Christ?”

I. Let us consider, firstly, why all men ought to think of Christ. Continue reading

Why Christians Celebrate

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened ‘to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory”, but of God’s glory: for justice has not come out of us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to men of good will.

For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head. For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

Excerpt from a sermon by Augustine on the mystery of the Incarnation.

The Mystery of the Incarnation

“He by whom all things were made was made one of all things. The Son of God by the Father without a mother became the Son of man by a mother without a father. The Word Who is God before all time became flesh at the appointed time. The maker of the sun was made under the sun. He Who fills the world lays in a manger, great in the form of God but tiny in the form of a servant; this was in such a way that neither was His greatness diminished by His tininess, nor was His tininess overcome by His greatness.” (Augustine, Sermon 187)”

 
 
incarnation

Light and Love in a Bleak Place at Christmas

Many years ago when I was expecting my first baby, Charlie, I was asked to accompany a group of school children to an inner city nursing home and play the piano for their caroling. It was a nursing home for the blind in a very down at the heels part of town.

The stale smell of institutional food and disinfectant greeted me as I entered the building. A feeling of depression fell on me as I passed room after room where patients in wheelchairs sat, TV’s blaring, some elderly and blind, others not old, but also blind and disabled in some other way.

We were taken to a multi-purpose room with a long table and an upright piano against the wall. The school kids were told to stand around the walls of the room to sing. The patients were then wheeled in around the long table. There were about 20 people there in wheelchairs that day.

One man’s face was so horribly mangled, clearly something terrible had happened to him. I wondered if he had been in an accident. He did not look old.

The kids sang out, and I played my best on the old piano. A few requests were called out by those in the audience, and we did our best to accommodate those.

A few heads nodded along with the familiar old carols. Silent night. Away in the Manger. Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Little Town of Bethlehem, The First Noel, all the usual ones.

Mr. Griffey, the very kind man who led the singing, then opened his Bible and shared the simple story of God’s astounding love in sending His dear Son to a dark world. He told of a Savior who did not come in regal splendor as He could have, He came in the lowliest fashion, for a world of lost sinners. He told how God’s marvelous plan of redemption was begun in that stable in the little village in Bethlehem.

He told of our Lord who came in humility to this world as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. He came to pay a debt we owed that could be paid no other way but through his death on the cross and his glorious resurrection.

He told how Jesus touched those in need. He reached out to the lepers and the lame and the woman caught in adultery. In an age when women were second class citizens, He gave women dignity as He sat with Mary, the sister of Martha and answered her questions. He memorialized a woman who poured out her perfume on his feet. He spoke to and gave hope to the Samaritan woman at the well who was living in immorality and should have been an outcast to him. He heard the cry of the blind Bartimaeus, the lame and the sick.  He ministered to all, rich and poor, who welcomed him and would hear His message. Mr Griffey shared the truth of the Gospel that day with the souls that were there.

As we left the home for the blind that day, Mr. Griffey told me about the man without much of a face left. As a young man, he had tried to kill himself with a gunshot to the head, but instead of dying, the man had only horribly disfigured his face, blinded himself and rendered his legs paralyzed. He would live out the rest of his days in that wheelchair.

That is just one who heard the message of hope that late afternoon, 26 years ago. The love of Jesus was there in the room that day for those people as that message went out. That is the message we need to share this season and every season. There is a hurting world out there, filled with people who are suffering in so many ways. We can be light and help and love in this dark place when we place ourselves at God’s disposal.

Just because I love it, I want to share the lovely Candlelight Carol by John Rutter with you.

A 1600-year-old Meditation on Christ’s Incarnation

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened ‘to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory”, but of God’s glory: for justice has not come out of us but has looked down from heaven.Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to men of good will.

For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head. For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

–Augustine of Hippo

One Week Until Christmas

It’s hard to believe it’s only a week until Christmas. Will had his Christmas program at school last night. He played, “Ding Dong Merrily on High” on the piano. My nephew Jesse is playing his trumpet tomorrow night with the band at his school’s Christmas program, and I will be his proud aunt in the audience. Will is accompanying a children’s Christmas program this Sunday morning.

We had an early Christmas with Aunt Kris who always brings a lot of joy with her, as does Uncle Mike when he is able to come. Christmas Eve, I am accompanying Tom to a midnight service where he is playing. Emily will be tucked up in bed sound asleep and watched over by her guardian brothers. Once again, I will sit alone in a dark church, without distraction, listening to the beautiful words and music of the Christmas Eve vigil. It’s a deeply meaningful way of remembering the mystery of the Incarnation.

We are not having a big meal on Christmas Day. I made a turkey on Thanksgiving and wore myself out. The consensus is that everybody wants to take it easy this year. So I am going to make some hot ham and buy some rolls, and we will have a very easy Christmas dinner without all the clean-up time. The big meals are nice, but I think everybody would prefer to just spend our time together without a lot of fuss.

Tom’s long running music job comes to an end this weekend, and we will get him back again! This year, the show did not run all the way until Christmas so we are very pleased to have him back early. After weeks of being so busy, he is looking forward to a quiet Christmas Day.

What we need in all our lives is to see the power of that Savior who was born in Bethlehem. The Nativity becomes nothing more than a romantic story if it is stripped of its larger meaning. Bethlehem led to Calvary. It was on Calvary that the power of sin, death and hell were broken. We desperately need to see the power of our resurrected Jesus in our lives. Otherwise, it is just a fairy tale. We need more than a Christmas card Jesus. We need to see the power of the living Jesus to heal lives, restore relationships and reconcile us to each other in love and forgiveness. May God show His power this Christmas and every day of our lives.

O Come let us adore Him, Christ the LORD.