(This Communion Meditation originally appeared online in December 2012.)
By Lee Magness
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16, 17).
About AD 110 in the ancient city of Antioch, a revered Christian leader named Ignatius wrote these words:
A star shone forth in the heaven above all the stars; and its light was unutterable, and its strangeness caused amazement; and all the rest of the constellations with the sun and moon formed themselves into a chorus about the star; but the star itself far outshone them all; and there was perplexity to know whence came this strange appearance which was so unlike them, . . . when God appeared in the likeness of man unto the newness of everlasting life (To the Ephesians, 19).
Ignatius wrote words about a birth on his way to his death, traveling under Roman guard to his martyrdom in Rome. Ignatius wrote words about the Bethlehem sky full of stars on his way to a stadium full of beasts. And he recognized that the star of stars not only signaled incarnation, God appearing in human likeness; it also signaled eternity, “the newness of everlasting life.”
We too are on a journey, a journey with Jesus. We too are on a journey toward death, toward life. And as we travel, we would do well to remember the focus of our fellow traveler—on Jesus, on the brightness of his star, on his humanity, on his suffering, on his glory.
So we gather today to remember Jesus—his journey and ours, his suffering and ours, his glory and ours. We gather to commemorate birth and death, the coming of the incarnate Christ and the presence of the crucified Christ, all in this one act of worship.
This is his once-born body, broken for us. This is the cup of the Christmas-to-crucifixion covenant in his blood. We pause to partake, celebrating his birth, remembering his death, and anticipating life, everlasting life.
God, we take these tokens of his death as a token of his birth and of ours as well, through Jesus, Amen.
Lee Magness, former Vera Britton Chair of Bible/professor of Bible at Milligan College in Tennessee, retired in spring 2013 after 30 years in the classroom.