Come and Behold Him ~ December 23, 2018 ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13
Since today was the candle of Love, I picked a Scripture that is familiar, I think, to most of us, 1 Corinthians 13, what we know today as the Love chapter of the Bible. Paul writes:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance… Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13)
Now, I know in the past that I have told a story about a troop transport ship called the Dorchester that left New York city Harbor on January 23, 1943, carrying 902 servicemen, merchant seamen, and civilian workers, including four chaplains.
Eleven days out to sea, the Dorchester was hit by a German U-Boat Torpedo. When it was discovered that there were not enough life jackets to go around, the four chaplains simply took off their life jackets and gave them to the next man in line. Survivors in nearby rafts, floating, said that they saw those four chaplains, arms interlocked, saying prayers and singing hymns as they went down with the ship. A survivor, John Ladd, said it was the finest thing he had ever seen, or ever hoped to see, this side of heaven.
My question: who does that? I have shared in the past also a story about a man named Maximillian Kolbe.
Maximillian Kolbe was a Polish Franciscan friar who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the German death camp of Auschwitz. At the end of July 1944, three prisoners apparently had disappeared from the camp. Karl Fritz, the Deputy Camp Commander, responded by selecting ten men to be starved to death in an underground bunker, with the hopes of deterring anyone else from trying to attempt escapes in the future. When one of the men selected cried out, “My wife! My child!” Father Kolbe stepped up. He said, “I am a Catholic priest from Poland. I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and a child.” Switch was permitted. Father Kolbe was put in an underground bunker, but he did not die right away. In fact, he was the last. After his other cell mates had passed. Finally, prisoner #16670, Father Maximillian Kolbe was put to death with an injection of Carbolic Acid. Again, I ask the question who does that?
I mean, did those four soldiers who accepted the life jackets from the chaplains, did they do anything that made them more deserving? Had they lived a life that somehow earned them the right to survive? They were soldiers, they were seamen. I don’t know for sure, but I hope that Reverend Fox, one of the chaplains, or Father Washington, one of the chaplains, lived their lives differently than the average soldier did. Soldiers and seamen and piety were not usually phrases that went hand in hand. There’s no guarantee that was the case, but surely soldiers and seamen had not lived lives more worthy of survival. There was no personal relationship between Reverend Fox and the soldier that he handed his life jacket to. Father Kolbe did not even know Franciszek Gajowniczek when he asked to take his place at Auschwitz. So, it wasn’t like they were friends or family. And would that have mattered? What if they were?
Does anyone remember the Chicken Soup for the Soul books that came out years ago? If you have never heard of them, I highly recommend them. Amazon, go to the library. They are awesome. In the very first Chicken Soup for the Soul book in 1993, there was a story told by a hospital volunteer about a young girl named Liza. Liza suffered from a rare and serious disease, and her only chance of recovery was hopefully a blood transfusion from her little five-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to battle the illness. So, the doctor took the little boy, sat him down, and to the best of his ability explained the situation to him and what he would have to do, and he asked him if he would be willing to give his sister his blood. The little boy hesitated, but only for a moment. And then after taking a deep breath, he said, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save Liza.”
So, they hooked him up, and as the transfusion progressed, the little boy lay in the bed next to his sister, and he smiled seeing the color returning to her cheeks. But not too long after that, his face soon grew pale, and his smile began to fade. Everyone was stunned when he looked up at the doctor, and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”
You see, being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor. He thought he was going to have to give all of his blood to his sister. Think about that. A five-year-old. How many little ones up here this morning were five years old? A five-year-old was asked to do something, and he paused, his little five-year-old brain was doing the math, trying to figure out exactly what the doctor was asking him, and then he came to a conclusion. A five-year-old. “Yes, I will give up my life,” so he thought, “if it will save my sister Liza.”
I ask a third time: who does that?
God did that. He loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son into the world to do what? To hand us a life jacket. To say, “I would like to take your place because I love you!” Did we do anything to deserve it? No. In fact, the Bible says:
No one is righteous – not even one… Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard
(Romans 3:10, 23)
But as Paul wrote: Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance, and so even though God does know us – He knows what we’ve done, He knows what we’re doing, He knows what we’ve thought, He knows what we’re thinking, He knows the thoughts that will come into our minds in the future – even knowing all that, He never gives up on us. The Bible says:
God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown! Salvation came to earth. Why? Love. Because God loved the world – you and me – so much that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. Come and behold Him, born the King of Angels. Let us adore Him, the song says, so here’s my next question: how? How might we adore Him and recognize what He did for us? We are moved by the stories of four chaplains. We are moved by the story of Father Kolbe. We are moved by the story of a little five-year-old boy who was willing to give his life to save his sister. Let us not forget who gave His life for each one of us. So, how do we adore Him? Jesus says:
Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
Even though the chaplains, Father Kolbe, and the little five-year-old boy did great things, verse 3 tells us:
If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body… if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
(1 Corinthians 13:3)
If I didn’t love others, it doesn’t mean anything. So, how can we adore Him? How can we give God thanks and show Him appreciation and gratitude for handing us the life jacket that is Jesus Christ? Jesus says, “Love each other.” That means we are supposed to be patient and kind with one another. Not jealous, or boastful, or proud, or rude. We are not supposed to demand our own way. We are not supposed to be irritable. We are not supposed to keep a record of wrongs, in other words we are not supposed to hold grudges against a wrong or perceived wrong. We’re supposed to never give up, we’re supposed to never lose faith, we’re supposed to always be hopeful. We’re supposed to love each other. That’s how we can show the Lord we adore Him.
And how about this too, I have another idea: How about, to show the Lord that we are appreciative and grateful for handing us that life jacket, how about we gather together at least once a week and give Him thanks, and sing Him songs, and lift up prayers, and study His word, and serve our community in His name. Does that sound good? Let’s get together once a week and do that. How about Sundays at 9:30 or 11? That’s how we can show the Lord we adore Him, and we thank Him, and we are grateful to Him for sending Christ into the world to hand us a life jacket, to forgive us, even though He knows us. That’s the best present we could ever give back to God. Let us pray.