Called and Loved and Holy: The reason for the Reason of the Season
Called and Loved and Holy:
The reason for the Reason of the Season
† IHS †
During the Christmas celebrations this year, may we know the
grace, the mercy and peace of God that is the reason for the reason of the Season!
Confusion about IHS!
It is amazing how easily this world can get confused about the message of Christmas, and never see the real reason for the season, or the real reason for the real Reason of the season. In this year, I think there is more of that going on than ever, not just in the world at large, but in the church. Part of that is we often get confused ourselves, and instead of asking questions, and doing our research, we simply go with what makes sense. Let me use a story from my youth to explain.
When I was growing up, there was a place in the church where the chalices were kept, and the cup that held the bread over which the words of institution was already said. On its brass locked doors, there were three letters, very ornate in their carving.
I H S
Sometimes on the bread, those letters were seen as well. The Chrismons that we used to hang on the tree here had them as well! As a curious kid, I always wondered what they meant, and one day I thought or heard someone say that they stood for “In His Service.” I would later hear they meant things ranging from Jesus, Savior of Men, to Jesus, Son and Savior. All of which make some sense.
Doing some more research, it seems the oldest use of them, was just the monogram of Jesus, the first three letters of His Name.
All sorts of different stories, most of them seeming to make sense, yet each obscuring a little of the simplicity of referring to who is with us, whose body and blood is given and shed for us.
Sometimes I think we need help focusing, especially now at Christmas, and that is what this reading from Romans does for us today.
An Ambassadors Limitations
In each of the letters Paul wrote to churches in various cities throughout the Mediterranean, he starts them with a reference to who he is, usually using the title apostle, with clarification that his role is by God’s choice and calling, not his own. He writes to the church in an area – not necessarily to a single congregation, but to all whom are called and gathered as God’s people there.
An apostle is like an ambassador, a person who is entrusted to speak for the one who selects and sends them. They are trusted with opening up relations and enhancing the relationships, but within the guidelines he has been given, with the powers with which he’s been entrusted.
The Greek word for sent emphasizes it – it is the word we get horizon from, and is defined as the boundaries Paul is given as an apostle. Despite his position, despite His call, he can’t change his mission and say he is only sent to these people, nor can he change what God has defined. Simply put, he can’t say, I don’t like baptism, so instead do this to enter a relationship with God. Nor can he change the rules and say, I don’t think gossip is as bad as sex outside of marriage, so let’s hear all the stuff about your neighbors, and what is that friend of yours doing now?
He was given a message, a very specific message with a very specific goal in mind.
Our challenge is to keep that message central in our lives, to depend on it, for it makes all the difference in the world. To be focused on Him, and what He has done, not on all the other things that can confuse the message, like I was confused about all the different possible meanings of IHS.
To declare the good news that God has sent His only begotten son into the world, into the family where God had always said he would be for the sake of rising from the dead to prove that Jesus cares for each one of us… and has taken responsibility for each one of us. Paul was to bring this message to a certain people group. A large group, this is sure, for it is everyone who isn’t Jewish. So that they can trust in God, and really hear Him, as He loves them, and calls them to be the people that are set apart to be God’s people.
That’s the limit of Paul’s work, the limit of the work of the church.
But that word – the one we get horizon from – the setting of the boundaries and limitations, is not just used for Paul’s ministry, or the ministry he has passed down to us through generations of generations of believers.
It’s used in regards to Jesus as well.
When it says in verse 4, that He was shown to be the son of God, when it talks about the dimension of His being shown as death could not stop Him. There is the evidence of His love, His call on our lives, His desire to make us Holy.
Even death could not stop him on the mission that God the Father sent Jesus on!
The Reason for the Reason of the Season
That is the reason for this Reason for this season to come. To make it abundantly clear that we do not walk alone, that this manger and this cross has a reason for us, not just eternally, but in the eternity that started when this good news became our good news! When the Holy Spirit replaced our heart of sin hardened stone with His heart, when He brought us to a life that is lived with Christ.
When we understand its not about our serving Christ, this time, but it is when Christ comes among us. Whne we are revealed to be the ones God loves and adores, when we care chosen and called to be His saints the people made Holy, set aside to be His.
That’s the message we’ve been given the responsibility of revealing to the world.
Like Paul, it is what our focus is to be on…
For it is what makes the difference. Look there – we are the ones in the last verses –
6 And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. 7 I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people.
His Love, His calling to us, His being our God, and making us His people…
That is what makes Christmas so radically different. Realizing it isn’t about the presents, or the people who would stop us from decorating our lawns, or the most recent action of a company that is perceived to be against God. That’s the difference between whether it is an acronym “In His Service”, or simply a monogram saying “Jesus” One focuses on us, the other, simply points us to the reality of Jesus Christ being our Lord, our source of life.
It makes an eternal difference, rather than just putting a burden on us, that we can’t possibly live up to.
His work, saving us, redeeming us, fixing our brokenness, restoring us to life with Him, that is the reason that Jesus is the reason for this season, and no other. Everything else, simply isn’t eternal, and doesn’t give us the grace and peace we’ve been given, the grace and peace that we can invite others into sharing.
But this news – that He is our Lord – that He has promised to be with us and care for us… that is what this is all about.
He is IHS our Lord!