"You've got to be in it to win it"
That’s the phrase that drifted into my thoughts late November as I started to think about Advent and Christmas. At first it didn’t seem relevant; so, I wrote it on my office whiteboard and left it there. But over the weeks it has come to be the phrase that I’ve used to understand the birth of Jesus, why that is good news and how we go about doing what we do at St James’.
God knew that to win the world He needed to be in the world. The creator God has always been in His creation, but in Jesus we get to see God in the world as a human, face-to-face. Jesus is God being in the world to win the world.
What does it mean for God to win the world; many things, but one of those things, is God wins us back to Himself; back into relationship. The very nature of being in relationship is one of proximity, of knowing, of being ‘in it.’ God can’t do relationships from a distance, any more than we can. Hence, Jesus. As I approach Christmas I see God, through the birth of His son, being in it, to ensure that He wins it, that He wins us.
As a Christian that is Good News, but it is also a reminder; as Jesus came into the world to win it for his Father, so I need Jesus in me, to win me for his Father. Easy to say…and easy to sing ‘Christ in me, Christ in me, Christ in me the hope of glory, Be my everything,’ but I am aware that, even after 29 years as a faltering Christian, I still struggle to fully allow Jesus into all that I am and do. The thought that there is some stuff that I can work out for myself is a persistent one, but Paul the Apostle reminds us that it’s hard to go it alone and we often repeat past mistakes however hard we try (Romans 7:15-20). For me the alternative to going it alone, is to start each day, as many followers of Jesus do, re-inviting the Holy Spirit in to my day, and asking for God’s Kingdom to come and His will be done in me and for His Spirit to protect me from evil. In our list of petitions and prayers we can forget to pray for God’s guidance and protection over our own (inner) lives, but if we want to be won over to Jesus there is no better place to start than to pray for the Holy Spirit to be in us at the start of each day.
The phrase ‘You’ve got to be in it to win it’ reminds us as a church family that to win our friends, family, and our different communities for God doesn’t happen by standing on the side-lines. We’re called to be with friends, family, our neighbours, school friends, work colleagues and community; enjoying their company, loving them, encouraging them, being there for them. But I don’t need to tell this to St James’ people as this is what St James people do… you are people that are ‘in it’ in so many ways and I thank God for you for that. The challenge is to make sure we are not only being there for our own, but for those that Jesus would want us to seek out. But, this is a challenge we face together, and we face knowing that where God calls us, he will equip us.
I pray that you and yours have a blessed Christmas; that in amongst all the busyness you have time for rest and relaxation as well as time to be in the presence of the God that loves you.