Thursday, January 1, 2015

Jesus the Christ, Savior

Luke 2:15-21 tells us of angelic words spoken to common sheep-tenders: "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord." The child referred to is Jesus of Nazareth who historically bore the name Yeshua/Joshua bar Joseph. The name derives from yasha = to be open, wide free: to save. Jesus signifies "He [God] saves." A Jewish name stood for the person and indicated something about her/his history, purpose, and mission in life. The name Yeshua was a fairly common one. There had been many "saviors" in the history of God's people, but this Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph, was to be the Savior, the Anointed One of the Lord.

Many of us may have been asked, at one time or another, "Are you saved?" That usually implies our ability to cite a specific time or date of a religious experience or conversion, or it implies that some common ground is provided in conversation between the questioner & us, as in "Are you part of the club, the 'in' group?" A positive reply allows the questioner to associate with you; a negative reply causes the questioner's defenses to go up and draw away. 

When I hear that question, "Are you saved?", I think back to some comments made by my son's school principal in a 1981 PTA newsletter: "The greatest problem facing our world today is that of man's relationship to his fellow man…The human ability to accept others is the brightest light in the darkness of this world…I am convinced that the answers to this problem lie within each of us. The light is there for us to use as individuals, as a community of persons, as a community of nations. Yet we continue to withhold ourselves from others -- we cut them off -- we don't believe in them -- we don't accept them as being one of us because of a difference in age, sex, color, viewpoint or speech. Darkness is nothing -- as soon as we turn the light on it disappears…At this time of year, just think what benefit we can provide for those who inhabit our small corner of the world and even for ourselves if we turn on the light of affection, concern, sympathy, understanding and love for our fellowman…It is not so difficult to give of ourselves -- to open the gates of our attitudes -- so that we can share ourselves with those who may have differing viewpoints…It is our potential to give freely and lavishly of [our gifts]."

What a wonderfully simple, direct, practical message, yet one which virtually expresses the essential wisdom and meaning of such phrases as "Are you saved?", "He saved us", "Jesus saves". The fact is that Jesus wouldn't withhold himself from humankind. "The Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us."  He accepted us. He accepts us always, even despite what we've been in the past and often are in the present. St. Paul reminds us: "…when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy…" Regardless of how we are, Jesus accepts us.

How might you and I spread the light of our "affection, concern, sympathy, understanding and love to our fellowman", mentioned above? You and I have so many simple saving gifts which we can give to one another all year long: a smile; offering to wash the dishes or to cook a meal for someone; forgiving an old grudge or hurt; propagating good news, rather than just the negative or gossip; saying "Please" and "Thank you"; trying to be understanding of someone's feelings or viewpoint before we grumble at or condemn them.

Somewhere along the line, I'm sure I ran across the name of the person who wrote the following Resolutions but I can't for the life of me remember or track it down. It'll suffice simply to share them in hopes that each of us might be moved by one or other of them as we live through this New Year of 2015.

No one will ever get out of this world alive.
Resolve, therefore, in the year to come to maintain a sense of values.
Take care of yourself. Good health is everyone's source of wealth.
Without it, happiness is almost impossible.
Resolve to be cheerful and helpful. People will repay you in kind.
Avoid angry, abrasive persons. They are generally vengeful.
Avoid zealots. They are generally humorless.
Resolve to listen more and to talk less. No one ever learns anything by talking.
Be chary of giving advice. Wise men don't need it; and fools won't heed it.
Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged,
sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the wrong.
Sometime in life you will have been all of these.
Do not equate money with success. There are many successful money-makers
who are miserable failures as human beings.
What counts most about success is how a man achieves it.
Resolve to love next year someone you didn't love this year.
Love is the most enriching ingredient of life.

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