Advent Reflection: 1 Peter 1

Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.

This year will forever be marked with the birth of our first grandson. We were there, holding the minutes old baby, looking for family resemblance, taking pictures, filling up with joy. That son changed our lives--no longer parents, but grand-parents.

The familiar refrain of Isaiah in Handel’s Messiah reminds us that Christmas is about the birth of a son who would change the world: wonderful counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. We celebrate the birth of the son in a manger with joy to

Mary and Joseph, shepherds, wise men, the world and to us.

Christmas is also about another birth—our birth. John tells us in his gospel that Jesus is the word who entered the world he made; he came to his own but his own did not receive him; but to those who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God (John 1). And our birth to new life brings joy, too.  Peter writes in his epistle,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3–12)

Whenever I read this passage I think of Peter who knew Jesus in the flesh.

Come, follow me.
I will send you out to fish for people.
Tell me to come to you on the water.
Lord, save me!
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.
We have left everything to follow you!
Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.
Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.
I don’t know him.
I’m going out to fish.
Do you love me?
You know that I love you.
Feed my sheep.

What was it like to watch his teacher and friend die? What disappointment and discouragement he must have felt! Peter led the early church based on the belief that Jesus was not dead in the tomb, but raised from the dead and sent into hearts for a new birth, and to empower followers to endure hardship, to be faithful, to have joy--joy that comes from knowing Jesus as a living hope, not a fading memory. Peter was sustained in his leading the church till his death by this truth.

This joy is the engine of the church, the changed and changing, the saving and sustaining life of the Christian and so we sing

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today.


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