It’s time to celebrate Christmas again! Every year, we have a new opportunity to join with Christians around the globe to focus on the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, and to reflect on what that encounter means to us personally.
It’s the message of God with us. God in human flesh. It is more than amazing. But God became flesh and dwelt among us. God entered the world as a Man. And because He did, we can have very personal encounters with Him.
An encounter is when we come upon someone or meet with them, usually unexpectedly. In this case, mankind was totally caught off guard. Even the learned religious leaders were blind-sided by this encounter with God. They were so surprised, that they rejected Him. John puts is like this.
“He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:10-14)
During Jesus’ life on this earth many received Him, believed on His name, and knew He was the Messiah. One unlikely candidate was a woman who had a pretty bad reputation. Her encounter with Jesus came when she made a routine trip to the village well for some water. She was totally unsuspecting that the Stranger sitting at the well would change her life forever. She probably expected to be shunned by this Jewish Man, because the Jews had no dealings with Samaritans, and especially not with women of her class. But this Jewish Man broke tradition and spoke to her. He actually asked her for a drink of water. Then their conversation turned to her personal life and to the ways of worship of the Samaritans and Jews. And before she knew what was happening, He told her He was the Messiah. Somehow, He had opened her heart, and she knew He spoke the truth. So, she ran back to the village and told the people she had found the Messiah, and she invited them to come and hear Jesus. They came, heard Him for themselves, and accepted Him. One encounter. One unexpected meeting. And life was never the same for a whole city. That’s what happens when we meet the Savior.
Another encounter came in the darkness of night when one of the Pharisees came to Jesus. Almost all the Pharisees spoke out against Jesus and were looking for a way to get rid of Him. They didn’t know Who He really was although they had all the Old Testament Scriptures to show them. They were jealous of His fame, His power, and authority. As part of that prestigious group, Nicodemus couldn’t come openly to Jesus, but he needed some answers. He needed to find out for himself Who this Man really was. So, he came by night seeking truth. Nicodemus was different from the other Pharisees who didn’t believe Jesus was from God. He told Jesus he believed He must be from God or He couldn’t do the works He was doing. Jesus explained to him the kingdom of God – a spiritual kingdom that cannot be seen until one is born again. Not a physical rebirth, but a spiritual birth that connects us with Christ. Because of His encounter with Jesus, Nicodemus’ eyes were opened. It seems he must have accepted Him as the Messiah, because later, when the Pharisees were planning to arrest Jesus and kill Him, Nicodemus was brave enough to speak in His defense. Then, after Jesus was crucified, Nicodemus went with Joseph of Arimathaea to prepare Jesus’ body for burial and placed Him in the tomb. This is what it says about Nicodemus in John 19. “And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night.” Now he was associating with Jesus in the light. What a difference an encounter can make when we allow it.
The Bible is filled with accounts of those who encountered Jesus. Each of the disciples encountered Him and left everything behind to follow Him. Years later, Paul did the same when he encountered Him on the road to Damascus. Mary encountered Him as a baby in her arms and as a grown Son Who hung on a cross and then returned from the dead. There are too many to mention, but every life that encountered Jesus was changed. They would never be the same. Neither will our lives be the same when we encounter Him.
Some who encountered Jesus rejected Him. Others were interested for a while, but soon slipped back into their normal lifestyles. Some not only turned away, but even tried to stop the Light from shining. But the Light still shines today and will never fade.
We can have encounters with Jesus Christ on many levels throughout our lives. He calls us to salvation, offers us healing, speaks to us to come up higher in our relationship with Him, or maybe He calls us to a specific work. Then, we have a choice to make.
What encounter have you had with this Messiah? Have you received Him or rejected Him?