John Betjeman, a Poet Laureate born 100 years ago, was one of Britain’s greatest twentieth century poets. He loved our country and its great Christian heritage. He prized our traditions and institutions. He admired the fine old buildings and churches. He wrote extensively about the countryside.
But although Betjeman loved to attend church services, he struggled with doubts. He was not a cynic but he wanted some certainty that the teaching of the Bible is true. In his Christmas poem he asks:
And is it true? And is it true?
The most tremendous tale of all …
The Maker of the stars and sea
Became a child on earth for me?
Why Jesus came
Our confident response to Betjeman’s question is that ‘the most tremendous tale of all’ is really true. The Lord Jesus Christ, who created the stars and sea, did indeed ‘become a child on earth for me’. This wonderful truth fills Christians with joy.
Many of us know the traditional Christmas hymns that speak of the Lord Jesus being born in a stable and laid in an animal feeding-trough. These carols also tell us why he came to earth as an infant.
The angels’ announcement to the shepherds sums it up – a Saviour had been born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:8-14). The Lord Jesus is described as a Saviour because he came into the world to save sinners and to give them peace with God. The Bible teaches that there is no other Saviour.
How Jesus saves
But how does he save? The Lord Jesus was not sinful like us. So he was able to give his sinless life as a pure sacrifice and substitute to save us from our sins. The Bible declares, ‘Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God’ (1 Peter 3:18).
However, Jesus not only died but also rose from the dead on the third day after he was killed. He is alive today! His resurrection is central to the gospel message because it demonstrated that God the Father had accepted his offering. ‘He was delivered up because of our offences and was raised because of our justification’ (Romans 4:25).
To become a Christian you must turn away from your sin and ask God to forgive you for Jesus’ sake. Of course, we cannot do this by willpower or emotion – it can only happen as the Holy Spirit opens our hearts to receive and believe the gospel and submit to Christ as Lord.
What you can do
But God’s ear is open to our cry, for ‘Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (Acts 2:21). The Bible encourages us to call on God to save us, trusting in Jesus Christ – ‘This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15).
Perhaps you have never given a thought to the Christian message. Or like John Betjeman you might be troubled with doubts. Either way, please get in touch with the church or person whose details appear on the front of this newspaper (or you can write directly to the Evangelical Times address given on p.2). We will do our best to help you.