Will your Christmas include playing games like “Cleudo”, or perhaps a retreat to enjoy a “whodunit” book, or maybe just the need to follow clues to find that missing item that is really essential?. In Romans 1:1-7, Paul is beginning his careful letter to Christians in Rome. Careful, because he hadn’t founded that Church. Though some there knew him, he also knew they had received mixed reports of him and his work.
He immediately makes clear his concern for the Good News, which is “concerning his Son ” 1:3 – and that is useful today, as so much of the Christmas fuss about us centres on anything but Jesus. Santa, presents, snow, choirboys and old churches, stagecoaches, wild animals, bells, – almost anything but Jesus.
But how were they supposed to know this? What made Jesus so different? How could they recognise Him, or justify their belief to others? This is where the clues come in and Paul lists 3:
- v2 “the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures,” Jesus was the one the prophets pointed to, and their words could be checked against his birth, life and works. A good clue!
- v3 ” who was descended from David according to the flesh” There were promises relating to a king in David’s family; both Matthew and Luke trace Jesus ancestors through David. Like the prophecies, this is another clue pointing to the importance of Jesus
- v4 “and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead” The Resurrection is so clear a clue. It points not only to the importance of Jesus, but to his status as Son of God
What Paul said by way of introducing his gospel and himself to the Romans is still true, and still important. Why should we think our faith or way of life true? in what way can we say that it is better than any other? or anything more than a matter of opinion or personal choice?
Because it is about Jesus, and our conclusions about him rest on this evidence. He was the one who fulfilled the hopes of the prophets; he was the descendant of David who became the Great King; and he was the one who rose from the dead. You know the methods, you have the evidence -follow the clues to their conclusion, and encourage others to do the same!
The Result has been a dramatic change in Paul. He has changed from a proud and privileged Pharisee to “a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God”. His preaching has by this time continued for many years, and brought many to the faith, and the experience he prays for them in verse 7 “grace and peace”
As we dash on towards Christmas, take a moment to remember what its all about. Without Jesus, it is a very hollow celebration of the commercial power of advertising, of benevolence unsupported by reason, and hopefulness doomed to reality. There is Good News, but it cannot be separated from God’s Son,
- recognised as the one the prophets spoke about,
- the descendant of David
- who rose from the dead to reign for ever
If he gives us grace and peace, it will be a present of real and increasing value..