Sunday, January 3, Second Sunday in Christmastide

Reader: “Because of Christ and our faith in him,” 

Response: “we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.” 

Scripture:  Ephesians 3:3-14

As I briefly wrote earlier, God himself revealed his mysterious plan to me. As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ. God did not reveal it to previous generations, but now by his Spirit he has revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets.

And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus. By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.

Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.

God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored.

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father.

Reader: “The word of the Lord.”

Response: “Thanks be to God.”

Some thoughts:  

The marking of the twelve days of Christmas dates all the way back to the Council of Tours in 567 AD. These coming days provide a good opportunity to reflect on the implications of the birth of Christ. In this passage, Paul refers to God revealing his mysterious plan to himself. That revelation surely refers to his Damascus road experience where he was confronted with the truth that Jesus was the Messiah he was persecuting. The Jews, knowing they were God’s chosen people, had believed that God was intended only for them. Such was Paul’s mindset prior to his trip to Damascus. A blinding encounter, literally he “saw the light” and instantly was confronted with the truth of Jesus by Jesus himself. 

Here Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus helping them to grasp and reinforcing the truth that the church includes Jews and Gentiles who are united as one body in Jesus Christ. The church is the Israel of God, the new children of God. Paul is stating that what God had kept secret was that the gospel would be for all people. It would appear that Paul was well aware of his previous life of persecuting Christians and was most grateful that God had touched his life and given him the privilege of proclaiming the gospel to the very people he persecuted and to the Gentiles as well! What an act of grace from God! 

I’d like to touch on the part of the passage that talks about coming into God’s presence boldly and with confidence. Frankly, that’s something I’ve wrestled with from time to time. It’s easy to pray and talk about the things on my heart and those situations I’m concerned about. It’s when I think about what is actually happening in my prayer that causes me to pause. By that I mean, I’m talking with the Creator of the universe, God who has never not existed, who knows everything about everything, who simply spoke creation into being with no expenditure effort, who intimately knows everyone who has ever existed, who rejoices at the salvation of one person, who longs that all people would repent . . .  And now I am talking and interacting with God through Jesus Christ? Seriously, why would a God like that care about me? Isn’t my prayer a bit presumptuous? 

What I discover is that I’m a bit too “me” conscious. Look again at what Paul wrote here, “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly . . .” The reason God hears my prayer is because of Christ and my trust in him. If I were to come on my own merits, it would truly be terminally hopeless. What does Hebrews say? “Since we have a great High Priest . . .” (Heb.4:14-16). It is Jesus who intercedes on our behalf. Being human, Jesus identifies completely and understands us better than we understand ourselves. So I can pray to the Father with confidence and boldness.

Music:  “Twas’ in the Moon of Wintertime”    Cambridge Singers

Bonuses!   A secular tune! Not a lot of theology here! Just joy!

  “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”     Andy Williams

  “The Little Drummer Boy”       The King’s Singers


Almighty and eternal God, Thou art hidden from my sight: Thou art beyond the understanding of my mind: Thy thoughts are not as my thoughts: Thy ways are past finding out.

Yet hast Thou breathed Thy Spirit into my life:

Yet hast thou formed my mind to seek Thee:

Yet hast Thou inclined my heart to love Thee:

Yet hast Thou made me restless for the rest that is in Thee: 

Yet hast Thou planted within me a hunger and thirst that make me dissatisfied with all the joys of earth.I bless Thee for that knocking at my heart’s door that warns me of Thy waiting presence. I bless Thee for Thy hand upon my life, and for the sure knowledge that, however I may falter and fail, yet underneath are Thine everlasting arms. Let me today embark on no undertaking that is not in line with Thy will for my life, nor shrink from any sacrifice which Thy will may demand. Suggest, direct, control every movement of my mind; for my Lord Christ’s sake. Amen.    ―John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer, p.21