Christmas memories, reflections, and a cookie recipe • Special section inside
Volume 106, No. 23
IB Insider Nate Adams: It’s hard to send a son page 3
DECEMBER 10, 2012
Why Jesus Came
It’s time to discuss the Incarnation
The ministry of 'being there'
By Eric Reed
The disappearance of Jesus was headline news in Chicago several years back. A life-size handcrafted figurine was stolen from the manger scene at Daley Plaza. After news coverage that rivaled reporting of the Lindbergh kidnapping, a tipster alerted police to the whereabouts of the missing Christ Child. A locker at Union Station. Soon the Baby Jesus was safe in his manger, swaddled with bands of steel so no one could steal away with him. For those few days, the street talk was amazing. People were searching for Christ (sort of). Find Jesus! Spread the word! Now, when “none” is fast rising as the religion of choice, the search for Jesus seems to be waning. The decades that sandwiched arrival of the new Millennium, which experts said would be marked by angel-talk and “spirituality,” have ultimately desensitized many to spiritual things. Nearly one in five Americans now claims no religious affiliation, and it’s one-in-three among young adults. The generations that grew up on the scientific method choose not to believe what they cannot see. And a purported “spiritual openness” among post-moderns is proving to mean open to most anything but Christ. That’s why it’s time for renewed discussion of the Incarnation.
A truly international feast page 4
A strategy for reaching your city page 5 Illinois missionary serves South African youth page 8
Pat's Playbook: Plan a memorable holiday service page 10
Find us online at: facebook.com/IllinoisBaptist twitter.com/IllinoisBaptist Vimeo.com/IBSA
Continued on page 9
WHAT CHILD IS THIS? – More than 100 nativity scenes, large and small, were on display in Springfield in early December. See more photos on page 9.
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New magazine updates IBSA calendar Church partners,
Springfield | Upon opening their mailboxes in mid-November, many IBSA church and associational leaders found something new, but vaguely familiar: A magazine titled Resource, which replaces the previous IBSA Calendar and Directory. The new publication features articles on ministry, ideas for outreach, and brainstorming space, along with calendar dates for upcoming IBSA and Southern Baptist Convention events. The magazine will be published three times a year (January-April, May-August, September-December) to coincide with the main seasons of the church. Resource is mailed to IBSA churches, local associations and members of their leadership teams, and additional copies can be requested
students key to Sandy recovery
by e-mailing Communications@ IBSA.org. An online version is also available at Resource.IBSA.org. In the first issue, focused on the Continued on page 2
As the number of meals prepared by Disaster Relief volunteers topped 1.5 million in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the North American Mission Board prepared for the next phase of response to the super storm. Church-to-church partnerships and a student mobilization effort are keys to sustaining the response to devastated communities in the Northeast, said NAMB’s Jerry Daniel. But the focus will be different than that of other disaster responses, like Hurricane Katrina, which needed volunteers to help rebuild damaged or destroyed church buildings. After Hurricane Sandy, much of the Continued on page 2
IN FOCUS The Word became flesh
Continued from page 1
In the years before the exile to Babylon, the Jews had what they thought was a firm understanding of God from the Law and Moses, from the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy of Holies, and from the cloud and fireball that led their ancestors to freedom. But after the second captivity, the remnants of Israel pinned their messianic hopes on a human. They wanted a visible, flesh-and-blood deliverer who would stamp out their oppressors, reestablish David’s kingdom, and rule over the new Israel. So Isaiah’s prophecy was a welcome one: “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel” (7:14). What the Jews did not grasp was that Immanuel, “God-with-us,” would not be a mere representative of God, but God himself. And He would not only be “with” us, He would be one of us. No longer is God distanced from us by His holiness and our sinfulness, sending messengers to tell us He cares. But He is here personally to show us He cares. We have reassurance that God-in-the-flesh knows what it means to laugh, to cry, to sing, to ache, to be tempted, to hunger, to yearn. He knows, because He is one of us. And God knows about our sin, the depth of our need, and our predicament. We can’t save ourselves; we need a sinless savior. Only in the flesh can He offer Himself as our perfect substitute sacrifice. He came to be with us, one of us, and ultimately to replace us on the cross, taking the punishment for our sin, in order that He might save us. Those who struggle with the dichotomy of deity and humanity need only consider the purpose of the Incarnation: In his body, Jesus put feet to God’s plans.
ray through the news
– Declare that the Jesus of Christmas is the Lord of the universe and the Savior of the world.
– Ask God to give you fresh ideas of how you can declare his name as you send Christmas cards, give and receive gifts, and gather with friends and family.
And dwelt among us During the Blitz, Londoners were heartened when the royal family refused to leave the city as Nazi planes rained bombs. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth would tour the vast city just hours after the nightly raids to survey the damage and encourage the survivors. Britons took comfort that their king was with them. He represented all that was worth fighting for. He so obviously wanted to win the war. But it was another man who made victory possible. A bulldog of a man with a stump of a cigar clenched in his teeth, this oncefailed politician became prime minister in Britain’s darkest hour. Winston Churchill convinced the nation they must win the war. He invented the “V for Victory” sign. Churchill was not a royal who admirably visited hospitals and cheered the injured, but a commoner. He was down-to-earth. Churchill took up the defense of his brethren, rallied them, enlisted them, instructed them, and led them all to freedom. One commentator said of Churchill, “He was able to lead because he knew the people he was leading and never separated himself from them. He was, quite literally, willing to die for them.” This generation of church leaders has written much about incarnational ministry – the importance of “being there.” But is being there enough, or must something more happen? Incarnation is at the root of the “missional” movement – serving as missionaries wherever we are, and living in the way of Jesus, who spread the Word just by being there. Incarnation is at the heart of relational evangelism, allowing people to live up close to us so they can see that our faith in Christ is real to us, and so it may become real for them. Incarnation is the theological foundation for vocational mission service in foreign countries and for a wave of young church planters returning to inner cities in the U.S. It is a methodology for introducing Christ to unreached people groups worldwide and for reclaiming gang-dominated neighborhoods right here. Missionaries operate in the way of Jesus: “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed…” (John 1:14 HCSB).
Incarnation is more than theology or methodology, however. It is a calling: Be the body of Christ, wherever we are. But also be intentional about where we go. Make Christ real to those who question his reality. Be His hands and feet.
And we beheld His glory The story is told of a missionary who labored for years in India. In the account credited to J. Oswald Sanders, the man arrived in a village where none had heard the Gospel. The people ran from him, refusing to hear his message. Exhausted, the man laid down to rest, slipped off his shoes, and rubbed his aching, blistered feet. He fell asleep.
December 10, 2012
A short while later he awoke, surrounded by villagers. The startled missionary was certain this was his end, but instead, the people helped him up and urged him to speak to them. “We knew you were a holy man when we saw your blistered feet,” the head of the village said. “Only a holy man would suffer so that he might share with us.” We knew He was holy when we saw His feet. Spread the Word.
AWAY IN A MANGER – Each year, a retreat center in the Springfield area invites people to lend their nativity displays, including the scenes pictured on this page, for a weekend-long festival open to the public. More than 100 scenes were part of the sixth annual festival, including nativities from IBSA staff members Sandy Barnard and Sylvan Knobloch.