These Christmas readings are selected from Discipleship, a collection of Arnold’s writings.
The way God sent his Son into the world is not to be explained or understood. John simply says that the Word became flesh (John 1:14). This Word is his love, and he poured it out through the Holy Spirit in Mary. Only in this sense can we begin to understand the mystery of the virgin birth.
When the angels appeared to the shepherds they said, “Unto you a child is born. Unto you a son is given” (Luke 2:11). We must take that to heart: to you a child is born. It is not just a matter of believing that a child is born in Bethlehem, but that a child is born to you. We must believe this quite personally: Jesus came for each of us.
Jesus’ life began in a stable and ended on the cross between two criminals. The Apostle Paul said he wanted to proclaim nothing but this crucified Christ (1 Cor. 2:2). We, too, have nothing to hold to except this Christ. We must ask ourselves again and again: Are we willing to go his way, from the stable to the cross? As disciples we are not promised comfortable and good times (2 Tim. 3:12). Jesus says we must deny ourselves and suffer with him and for him. That is the only way to follow him, but behind it lies the glory of life – the glowing love of God, which is so much greater than our hearts and our lives.
Jesus was the suffering servant. His life went from birth in a lowly stable to death on a cross between two criminals for the sake of pure love alone. He was a true man, yet God; he was the Word that became flesh; he was the Son of God but also called himself the Son of Man.
Jesus Christ is the redeemer who comes to us weak and sinful men. He frees us from sin and demonic powers. He makes us true men. He is the healer who heals for nothing. He is the true vine, the living tree. He is the same yesterday, today, and in all eternity. Jesus is the soul of compassion, the friend of man, the caller to new life. He is the true and good shepherd, the king of God’s kingdom. He is called the wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, and prince of peace.
Christ is the gathering power: “How often have I wanted to gather you like a hen her chicks, and you would not” (Luke 13:34). His last prayer was for unity and love among his disciples (John 17:21). His new life overcomes separation, leads to community, and makes men of one heart and one soul. He is the revelation of God’s love and kingdom.
We must experience Jesus in our hearts and souls. Yet still more is demanded: we must experience him as Lord over all things, king over all principalities and worlds of God. We must concentrate our hearts, minds, and souls on the vision of his kingdom and on him, the coming one.
It is our prayer that we may see the real Christ. We pray that he be revealed to us first as he was – a baby born in a stable at Bethlehem; and then a condemned man hanging on the cross between two criminals at Golgotha; as he is today – the head of all things, especially of his church (Eph. 5:23); and as he will be at the end of time – the one who judges the quick and the dead, the bridegroom of the great festival in the kingdom of God.
Are we willing to go the same way of suffering that Jesus went on earth? Are we willing to give ourselves completely to him?