Advent: December 23

Second Reading: Romans 16:25–27

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (ESV)

As I walked back to my car, I had joy in my heart and a bounce to my step despite the two hours of basketball I had just played. It was the Christmas season, which is a great time to share the Gospel here in Japan due to its commercialized presence, and a couple guys at the middle school gym we played at had asked about Christmas in the USA. I was able to share its true meaning with them, the Gospel that Paul talks about in Romans 16:25, and in the process I was strengthened myself.

It is amazing to me that something that happened two thousand years ago can still be so relevant to our lives today. Through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we can have life abundant and eternal, walking with God starting today. This was foretold for hundreds of years before his arrival, and we are still telling that story today.

The angels announced to the shepherds that this was “good news of great joy for all the people,” or as Paul writes, “my gospel . . . (that) has been made known to all nations.” I don’t think Paul was intentionally thinking about that first Christmas when he closed his letter to the Romans, but the parallels are astounding: the telling of good news, the proclaiming of Jesus Christ as Savior, and the foretold prophecy fulfilled and made known to all people and nations. This was all accomplished and continues to be accomplished through the power and command of the eternal God, our Heavenly Father.

Here in one of the many nations of the world, this good news, the true meaning of Christmas, needs to be proclaimed as well. But I think it goes deeper than that. In our divided and polarized world, we need to see that the Gospel and its fruit are for all people. Jesus was born to bring peace and life to all people, to all the nations. It isn’t dependent on our gender, class, or citizenship. It isn’t dependent upon the color of our skin, the size of our bank account, or the number of hours we pray. It is for all who accept that the baby born in Bethlehem so many years ago was God’s gift to us, that we might have life through him.

As we approach the celebration of Christmas this year, let’s remember to be thankful for this gift for all the nations and give glory to the eternal, wise God who strengthens us as we live life with him! Merry Christmas!

Rev. Paul Ewing – NAB Missionary to Japan