This is a guest post from Dani Wassef. Dani works at a private, nonprofit international organization in the field of public health. He also is a proud member of St. Timothy & St. Athanasius Church in Arlington, VA. You can follow him on twitter, @dwaffels. And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
"Jesus came to save the world." An expression you hear over and over during this Christmas season. But what does that even mean? Sure, there are theologians with deep rooted answers about heaven, hell, life and death – things that are far from the here and now. But at the root of it, I think it hits much closer to home than we think.
I’ll be the first one to say “I love this time of the year!” Christmas time is so exciting for me. Every aspect of it takes me away from reality and makes me remember that while God allows us to decorate our homes, offices, and churches – He’s even busier decorating our hearts. And the one thing I enjoy the most is the music. The minute the radio stations and shopping malls begin to play: “Do You Hear What I Hear”, “Joy to the World”, and the one with the “fa-la-la-las”, I forget the madness of the holiday rush and just feel a sense of peace.
This past Saturday, I attended Vespers and midnight praises at church and I forgot how sweet and amazing the church hymns are. One in particular always gets me energized – “The Burning Bush” – and after hearing it and reflecting on it I remembered what Christmas was really all about.
The Burning Bush seen by Moses, the prophet in the wilderness. The fire inside it was aflame but never consumed or injured it. The same with the Theotokos (God-Bearer) Mary, carried the fire of divinity Nine months in her holy body, without blemishing her virginity.
Simple enough, right? Do I need to read into it? Why should I? It's self-explanatory, right?
Well I challenged myself, I took out my Bible and wiped off the 3-4 inches of dust it has accumulated, and read about the Burning Bush. I was amazed at how the church in her wisdom chose the perfect time to reflect on a song about the Burning Bush.
The story of the Burning Bush is recorded in chapter 3 of Exodus. If you recall, Moses had fled into the wilderness after killing an Egyptian when he saw the suffering of his people. While in the wilderness, he met a lovely lady and married her. And while employed by his father-in-law as a shepherd, God led him to a special place that changed Moses and saved the people of God.
A dialogue begins and where my attention was drawn begins in verse 7 (while reading, apply this to what you may be going through):
“And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, to bring the up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey…. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.” (Exodus 3:7-9)
It’s hard to really comprehend that God’s big plan of salvation for the world is so individualized. I understood why the church reminds us to dwell on The Burning Bush this time of year – because Christ coming to “save us” was not only to grant us the ability to reach his abode. His coming to us was so that even while we are here on this earth, God wants to provide for us in the best way, just as He promised the Israelites.
Remember also, the Israelites - like us today - were very disobedient. After all they celebrated their salvation by worshiping a golden calf! But God is much greater than that. He not only granted us salvation for after we die, but He provides for us the best even while we are on this earth.
He wants give us everything, He wants us to live like royalty. I don’t know about you, but a land flowing with milk and honey sounds pretty good to me! I believe God’s gift to us is much more than just a trip to heaven after we die. Through His Son, He also wants to provide salvation from our troubles, our worries, our fears, our sorrows, our hurts, our broken relationships, and all of our pain.
I am challenging myself during this season of Advent, to dwell on the gift of salvation and freedom from my own pains and troubles on earth. I am challenging myself to live like a child of a King and Father who loves me so much and gives me what is best.
For discussion: what does the expression “Jesus came to save the world” mean to you?