Saturday, December 23, 2006

Isaiah 10:20-27; Psalm 55; Jude 17-25; Luke 3:19

Christmas is just a couple of days away, and we will joyfully celebrate the birth of Jesus, the culmination of the first Advent. As we prepare with great anticipation for the second coming of Christ and “...for the mercy of our Lord... to bring [us] to eternal life...” (Jude 21), we are urged to “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them….” (Jude 22-23.)

Now that’s a tall order! Something perhaps best left in the hands of professionals? But we don’t have to be professional rescuers to save others. Sometimes ordinary people rise to the occasion. A while back, I read about a small plane that crashed in a subdivision’s retention pond in Indianapolis. Residents immediately dove in, pulled three passengers from the wreckage, and dragged them to shore.

I sometimes wonder if I’d have the courage to rescue people in distress. I know I couldn’t jump into a river or lake. I’m not a particularly good swimmer, and I’d drown for sure! But would I have the presence of mind to look for some other way to reach out to them, to save them?

Of course Jude writes about a more important saving – the saving of souls. Though not always obvious, many people around us are distressed, desperate, hopeless, or anxious. Some have severed their connection to God. Others refuse it. Many are at risk of losing their grip and falling – plunging into the dark, raging inferno of eternity without God. So how do we “snatch [them] from the fire,” rescue them, save them? For Jude, the answer is simple – you, prayer, and God.

“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love....” (Jude 20-21.) Jude effectively says: You! Focus on your walk with Jesus. Before we can help others, we must be strong in our spiritual lives. Then, with our hearts and souls firmly anchored in Christ, we will have the courage and ability to toss a lifeline to anyone and everyone around us: friends, family, even strangers half a world away!

Heavenly Father, may our Christmas gift to others be the extension of lifelines – encouraging words, helping hands, acts of kindness, prayer, ministry, and outreach – that will anchor them to Christ and lead them to life everlasting with you. Through prayer, fellowship, and grace, may we strengthen our own lifelines, and may we hold on tightly, always! Amen.

- Martha Olson

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