Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God. (Jer 3:22 KJV)
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. (Jam 4:8 KJV)
God’s invitation to his backsliding children and their positive response of returning to him reflects the pattern of our relationship with him. God’s initiative and God’s good work in us, makes it possible. Without God’s willingness to accept his backsliding children back, to welcome them back home, to forgive and to restore them, to heal and make up this story would have come to a miserable end long ago. Yet this is what God does. He is the Father waiting longingly for his lost son. It is he, who sends out his servants to go look for those fallen by the wayside, call those on highways and byways that his house might become full. It is he, who as the good shepherd goes and seeks those who can’t make their way into the fold and sanctuary. It is he, true and very God, who invites with wide open arms and friendly voice, calling to himself like a hen inviting her chicks under her protective wings.
This open invitation from God is the good tiding that we hear from the angelic hosts addressed to the shepherds on the field. God is favourably inclined towards men, forgiving their sins and iniquities and graciously inviting them to come and worship the king, receive salvation and life everlasting. It is the message of apostles and prophets of old. It is the proclamation of heaven and earth. Even the stars indicate the way – if we were but able to read and comprehend their loud and clear message, which even the wise men from the east could not fathom precisely so that they went by Jerusalem instead of directly to the manger in Bethlehem.
It is the basic message of God’s messengers even today – pastors, missionaries, evangelists, teachers and bishops: Come, taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Hear, what the Lord your God has in store for you – forgiveness, healing, justification and restoration + not retribution, debt collection and punishment. Although that’s what would have been our rightful due. Instead, he is willing to forgive, to make up and restore, heal and sanctify. Oh, how friendly and kind, merciful and gracious is our God + So they teach all that their Lord and God Jesus Christ entrusted to them. Baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Making the Church the mission outpost throughout the nations. The centre and service point, where God’s good gifts are distributed in his most holy and precious means of grace. So that throughout the world Churches are preaching, teaching, proclaiming and administering the gospel of Jesus Christ and thus creating saving faith, where and when it pleases God.
And people from all the ends of the world draw close to the Lord. They gather around his wholesome presence at the foot of the altar, pulpit and font. Returning to the baptismal grace daily with the confession of their own sinfulness and unworthiness only to be absolved by the divine authority and to depart in godly peace. Thus they are cleansed and purified. Washed, clothed with garments of righteousness and sonship. Thus they are encouraged, uplifted, vitalized and sustained by his enduring grace and loving goodness. Their sins are all forgiven, their burdens lifted, fed life and salvation and enabled to live the new lives of righteousness and holiness by his indwelling and invigorating, abiding presence. Joyfully they thank and praise the triune God for all he has done through Jesus Christ their Lord and Saviour, who together with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns now and forever.
Therefore let us return to the Lord even today. He is calling us to himself. Let us abide in him in single minded affection and dedication. He is our Lord and our God. There is no other and with him, we are well taken care of. Yes, in his presence, we thrive and flourish. It’s good for us to be in the presence of the Lord always. Amen.
Beside Thy Manger Here I Stand
by Paul Gerhardt
Beside thy manger here I stand Dear Jesus, Lord and Savior A gift of love within my hand To thank Thee for Thy favor O take my humble offering my heart, my soul, yes, everything Is Thine to keep forever.
I lay in death’s dark, gloomy night, Thou camest, Lord, to save me; Thou art the sun, whose heavenly light Life and salvation gave me. O sun, who kindled faith to shine Within this darkened heart of mine, How radiant is Thy glory!
With joy I gaze upon Thy face; Thy glory and Thy splendor Is greater than my heart can praise And songs can fitly render. O how I wish my mind would be As boundless as the deepest sea, T’would still be lost in wonder.
One thing, O Lord, I humbly pray, Deny me not this favour, That in my heart Thou day by day Wouldst dwell as mine for ever. O let me then Thy manger be; Come, Saviour, come, abide with me, Give me Thy choicest blessings.
Paul Gerhard: “Ich steh an Deiner Krippen hier…”(1607-1676)
Translated P.G. Strelan & William M. Czamanske 1910.