Christmas means it’s time to remember the family. But not the family that probably first comes to mind. Paul, to a distressed young church in Corinth wrote “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9) Through Christmas God has called us into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ. And make no mistake about it – fellowship with Jesus Christ has outstanding, life-changing benefits.
One of those benefits is that we have a divine position. “To the church of God in Corinth, those sanctified in Christ Jesus…” (1 Cor. 1:2) Paul says we are sanctified which means God has set us apart in Jesus Christ., Paul says the same thing in many of his letters when he refers to Christians as ‘saints.’ We are saints. Too often we think of sainthood as an honor or title for some ‘super Christian’ who has died and is posthumously honored. But the Good News is all who have been set apart in Jesus by God are saints. It refers to ownership, not to an earned right.
Through a manger in Bethlehem God has brought us into fellowship with Jesus. In doing so He has brought us into His family. What’s amazing is that Paul is referring to the Corinthian church. If ever a church was far short of what it ought to be, this was it. Immorality was rampant, a code of ethics was all but non-existent, and her theology was badly tainted. Yet, says Paul, her members are sanctified – they are saints. And so are we! Because of Christmas we have been given the position of being children of God – brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ! At our baptisms, God put his mark, his seal, his brand upon us. He gave us the same royal status as that of His Son!
Did you ever slice an onion? What does the core of an onion look like? What’s the substance of an onion? There is no core or substance. An apple has a core. Plums and peaches have pits. But an onion is merely the sum total of its layers. It is so easy for us to simply become the sum total of what others expect or want us to be. There’s a layer for the boss, one for the spouse, one for the children, one for the coach, one for the church. Soon we lose track of our identity. Never forget who you are! You are a brother, a sister, of Jesus Christ. You are a saint!
In the town of Stepanavan, Armenia, there was a woman whom everyone called ‘Palasan’s wife.’ She had her own name but townspeople called her by her husband’s name to her great honor. Palasan was at work when the devastating earthquake struck Armenia in 1988. He rushed to his son’s elementary school. The façade was already crumbling, but he entered the building and began pushing children outside to safety. After Palasan had managed to help 28 children out, an aftershock hit that completely collapsed the building and killed him. So the people of Stepanavan honor his memory and his young widow by calling her Palasan’s wife. Sometimes a person’s greatest honor is not who they are but to whom they are related. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13) We are related to the one who died for us, Jesus Christ. We are saints! We are brothers and sisters of Jesus!
There’s a wonderful story someone wrote about her grandmother and aunt. “My grandmother sent the wherewithal to Holland for her sister Greta to immigrate to America. Thrilled at the prospect of seeing my grandmother again after twenty-five years, Greta booked passage on the first steamer leaving Rotterdam, settling for accommodations in steerage rather than waiting for another six months to travel in the grand style that her relatives had planned for her. A thoughtful purser, familiar with this common choice among families anxious for reunions, discreetly offered the hospitality of the upper decks of the ship during the day. Greta declined this privilege, however, and remained sequestered in her dark, rancid, and noisy quarters for the fourteen long days of her journey. My aunt called this ‘minding one’s place.’ She never presumed that there was anything more to sailing across the menacing Atlantic Ocean than enduring volcanic tosses from her mildewed perch until reaching land safely on the other side. Only on disembarking in New York Harbor did Greta behold what she had been missing. On those upper decks that she had regarded as off limits were tapestries, chandeliers, wood-carved cornices, oriental rugs, silver, gleaming crystal, and buffets laden with exotic and plentiful food and drink. Most alarming of all, though, there were people just like Aunt Greta, stranded in fourth-class sleeping accommodations, who had accepted the invitation of the venerable steamship company and had toddled above to enjoy the treasures daily. ‘Imagine,’ my aunt would gasp. ‘It could all have been mine, too, had I only said yes.”
God, through Jesus Christ, has put us in His family and invited us to live in royalty. Will you live in the dingy, damp, dark basement quarters, or will you say ‘Yes’ to Jesus and enjoy the royal rooms? We are Christ’s. As Christmas approaches let’s remember that we are His family. That will make a lot of difference not only in our attitude but in how we live.