From the land of the Bethlehem-born Jesus, Uncommon Christian Ministries wishes you a Christ-focused and joyful Merry Christmas.
With tourism currently booming, over 90,000 tourists and pilgrims are expected to visit Israel during the Christmas season.
May the below Christmas 2010 meditation inspire us to likewise be "looking unto Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2) with the same uncommon focus and intensity as the "uncommon Christian" James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829).
Written the day prior to Christmas Eve, below is a portion of a December 23, 1823, letter from the evangelist Taylor to his "aged clerical friend" and mentor, Frederick William Hotchkiss (1762-1844). At the time, the then 22-year-old "uncommon Christian" was a first-year student at Princeton University, and the Yale-educated Hotchkiss was the long-time pastor (1783-1844) of the First Congregational Church in Saybrook, Connecticut.
This evening my mind has been led to look to Jesus, as the apostle says, 'Looking unto Jesus.' I was thus led, more particularly, because tomorrow [Sunday] is to be our communion season [the Lord's Supper].
'Looking unto Jesus.' Before the world was, he dwelt with the Father. And, O what glory and delight he must have had from all eternity! We may look unto him as God, by whom the worlds were made [John 1:3, 10]. But had he need of worlds? What do they add to his infinite, underived, eternal glory? For whom, but for man, was this fair fabric formed, and lighted up, and adorned so richly? Upon God's equal we may gaze with wonder, and adore his condescension. O what pity touched his sympathizing soul! What the might of that love which brought him down! Well might the plains of Bethlehem resound with glory to God in the highest; peace on earth, and good will to men [Luke 2:14]. And well may we join the heavenly host in praising God; for unto us a Savior was born, who is Christ the Lord [Luke 2:11].
'O for this love, let rocks and hills
Their lasting silence break.'
Let us look to Jesus during his state of humiliation, for from the manger to the cross he was preparing the way to bring many sons unto glory [Hebrews 2:10]. O the contradictions he met from sinners! What temptations in the wilderness! What agony in the garden! But the wonders of the cross! It is here our hopes center. For the hope which the cross inspired, the primitive Christians were ready to suffer; nay, did suffer and die. However opposed, they preached its doctrines, and said, 'God forbid that we should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' [Galatians 6:14].
Extending our view beyond the cross, we may profitably look upon him whom we have pierced [Zechariah 12:10], as arising from the dead. 'He rose again for our justification' [Romans 4:25]. What joy his disciples felt when their eyes once more beheld their Lord, whom the Jews had crucified and slain! But he was soon to leave them, and triumphantly ascend up where he was before.
Thither our forerunner hath entered--our captain has led the way; and now we may look unto him at the right hand of the Majesty on high. By faith, too, we may look at the mansions he hath prepared [John 14:2]. But what is faith's vision? It is indeed a blessed reality; 'it is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen' [Hebrews 11:1]. But we want more, and more we shall have. Not through a glass darkly shall we see him, but face to face--see him as he is [1 Corinthians 13:12]. 'Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom' [Luke 12:32].
Do we want stronger faith? To Jesus must we look, who is the author and finisher of faith [Hebrews 12:2]; and pray, as by example we are taught, 'Lord increase our faith' [Luke 17:5]. Would we be what God would have us to be, what do we need but to be conformed to the image of his dear Son [Romans 8:29]? And how shall this be effected but by looking continually unto Jesus?
Are we ignorant? He is our Prophet. Are we sinners? He is present to plead our cause--a Priest whom the Father heareth always, and whose blood cleanseth from all sin. Would we have all things brought into complete subjection to his law? As King, he is on the holy hill of Zion. Where is such an example of patience under suffering? And he knows how to succor them that are tempted. In doing the will of his heavenly Father, how assiduously and perseveringly did he accomplish his work!
What we find to do, may we do it with our might [Ecclesiastes 9:10]. The more steadily we look to Jesus, the faster we shall run, the higher will be our attainments, the happier we shall be, and the more we shall honor God.
John Holt Rice and Benjamin Holt Rice, Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor, Second Edition (New York: American Tract Society, 1833), 172-77. Memoir viewable online and at no cost via Google Books. Click here to read.
Also, click here to read the memoir's sequel/companion volume A New Tribute to the Memory of James Brainerd Taylor (1838) by James' younger brother Fitch W. Taylor.