While a little bit of the overall context might not be grasped due to this quote coming toward the end of John Calvin’s instruction regarding angels in the Institutes, nevertheless his pastoral approach is readily understood. Under the heading, “God makes use of the angels, not for his own sake, but for ours,” Calvin writes,
[God] makes use of angels to comfort our weakness, that we may lack nothing at all that can raise up our minds to good hope, or confirm them in security. One thing, indeed, ought to be quite enough for us: that the Lord declares himself to be our protector. But when we see ourselves beset by so many perils, so many harmful things, so many kinds of enemies – such is our softness and frailty – we would sometimes be filled with trepidation or yield to despair if the Lord did not make us realize the presence of his grace according to our capacity. For this reason, he not only promises to take care of us, but tells us he has innumerable guardians whom he has bidden to look after our safety; that so long as we are hedged about by their defense and keeping, whatever perils may threaten, we have been placed beyond all chance of evil” (I.14.11).
Today marks the Fourth Sunday in Advent, and next Sunday is Christmas Day! There’s a certain excitement in the air, isn’t there? The children are off from school, and eagerly anticipating opening presents. Moms and dads are finishing up the last bits of shopping to be done, and getting things in order for a Christmas feast. By and large, that’s the experience of many people. However, this time of year often brings it’s share of sorrow and despair, too, doesn’t it? The lonely will feel acutely lonely, and the absence of loved ones lost will be keenly felt. I would imagine that such will be the case for R.C. Sproul, Jr. and his family, as this morning Denise, his wife, passed into glory. R.C.’s testimony of faith throughout his wife’s last battle with cancer has been commendable in every way, and surely the God of all comfort is his close companion now (2 Cor. 1:3-5). I can only begin to imagine the loss they will feel next week when the place at their Christmas feast that had been occupied by an adored wife and loving mother will be empty. This is not the dream of an Ebenezer Scrooge who sees an empty stool and crutch leaning against the wall, but the real reality for a husband and his children that their beloved will not be with them again in this life. As much as it may be difficult for us to admit, death is very much a part of the Christmas story. Matthew 2:16-18 is evidence enough, but the very fact that it was necessary for God to become man also indicates to us that the world was suffering in a state of death. Jesus came in order to reverse the world’s condition, to bring new life, new creation, to bring life out of death. And He accomplished that wonder through His death and resurrection, and that is cause for joy! “No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow, Far as the curse is found.” Yes, that is marvelously true, and it is for faith to believe and rejoice in that truth, and yet there is still mourning in this life for the sins and sorrows that the curse and death still inflict upon us. That is the world in which we must live. Thankfully, that mourning is not without hope, even as R.C.’s own testimony today declares: “Denise, enjoying the blessed vision of our God and Father, is at home with the Lord. Cancer no longer afflicts her, and every tear has been dried away. The Queen of Orlando casts her crown at her Savior’s feet, and together, they dance.” It may be winter, and winter moments are an inevitable experience in our lives, but Christmas cannot be held back. The White Witch’s hold upon Narnia is growing weaker by the moment. Aslan is on the move. I cannot help but think that next Sunday Denise will declare, as did Father Christmas to the Pevensie children and Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, “A Merry Christmas! Long live the true King!” And so will R.C. and his children, albeit with tears in their eyes.
Christmas Eve • 7:00 p.m.
St. Mark Reformed Church invites you to join us in the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior with our annual Lessons and Carols service. This service is a special time weaving Bible readings with traditional Advent and Christmas music.
With this service we enter more fully, liturgically, and experientially into the story of the coming of the Son of God in human flesh to redeem us from the curse of sin and death. The readings and songs move from promise to fulfillment, from prophecy to realization, from type and shadow to reality.
The service is at our normal location of worship
1301 Franklin Road, Brentwood, TN
(Brentwood First Presbyterian Church Building)