Christmas is a time for celebration and reflection. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been pondering two questions: What is the Bible? And what does it mean to us?
You may feel that these are very basic questions for someone working for an organisation whose entire focus is sharing the Bible! But I think it’s sometimes important to go back to basics, to remind ourselves why we do what we do.
The fact is, we are living in a world which sees the Bible as nothing more than a book. Some see it as a story book; others as a history book. But the 66 or more books that make up the Bible add up to so much more than ‘just a book’. It’s a book of life and death.
Get you killed
It’s banned, burned and destroyed in some countries. Just being found with a copy can get you killed.
It’s also deeply loved and cherished. It is the world’s best seller, translated into more languages than any other book. Some communities still don’t have the Bible in their languages and have been waiting and praying for years to have it translated.
The Bible is no ordinary book. It’s a manual about life. It’s a message of love from our Creator God. As we celebrate the birth of Christ, we are celebrating the incarnation of the Word of God. In Jesus, God’s Word came in the form of a living , breathing man whose words of life, wisdom and love fill the Gospel stories.
Astounding story of God’s love for us
But the Bible contains much more than the Gospels. It contains the full sweep of God’s love for and engagement with the world, starting from the creation. The astounding story of God’s love for us can only be truly understood by reading the whole Bible – Old and New Testament. This is what we believe at United Bible Societies. And this is what we are working towards as we translate, publish and distribute the Bible around the world.
In the Old Testament, we see God continuously and relentlessly coming to the rescue of his people, despite their rebelliousness. From Abraham to Moses and Joshua and the subsequent prophets, God pursues us, never giving up on us. When he sent us his only son to live and die for us he changed the world and our relationship with him forever. It the ultimate act of love for a disobedient people.
As Christians, we are called to share this love story with the world. We can give out Bibles or quote our favourite verses but to do this effectively we ourselves need to become expressions of the Living Word. We can only do this through Christ – through remaining rooted in him.
So, this Christmas, let’s reflect on the full story of God’s love. Let’s draw near to him and root ourselves in the purpose he has in our lives.
One of the most moving passages of Scripture is in Luke 4:16-21, when Jesus reads out loud from Isaiah, who predicted the coming and purpose of the Messiah.:
He stood up to read the Scriptures and was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed
and announce that the time has come
when the Lord will save his people.”
Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. All the people in the synagogue had their eyes fixed on him, as he said to them, “This passage of scripture has come true today, as you heard it being read.”
That’s the good news we are celebrating at Christmas. Let’s share it with the world!