There is more to come—there is the fullness. There is coming a day when, as Paul says in Romans 11, the deliverer will come from Zion and “all Israel will be saved.” Not just the current remnant of Messiah-believers, but also those who at the moment reject Jesus. There is a day coming when, as the book of Revelation says, the kings of the earth and all the nations will bring their treasures into the New Jerusalem through its ever-open gates to worship God and the Lamb.
Now we see salvation in part, then we shall see it in full.
So currently we see a division within Israel and the nations between the redeemed and the lost, between the elect according to grace and those who are not, but one day there will be no such division. And then the promises associated with the birth of the Messiah will be filled full, or full-filled.
My second theme can be explained much more simply. Remember that Christmas is also about the incarnation—the Word made flesh, “eternity contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man.” For the Church, the real and complete humanity of Jesus is really important. The Church Fathers said: “that which has not been assumed has not been healed.” What they meant was that Jesus had to be human to heal our humanity. If he had not taken on our human nature then he could not transform it in himself.
Now Jesus is, of course, a particular human being. He is a real, solid, flesh and blood and bone and spit human individual. But more than that, he is a representative person. As the Messiah of Israel, he represents the whole nation of Israel before God. He is Israel-in-miniature. He embodies its story of exile and restoration in his death and resurrection. In the same way, he is the second Adam—the fountainhead of a renewed human race. In his humanity, he represents all humans before God. The story of humanity in its expulsion from Eden and its subjection to death is played out in his crucifixion. But then his resurrection is not simply about himself—it is on our behalf, the behalf of all of us, Jews and Gentiles. The resurrection of Jesus is the resurrection of humanity in him. It is the future of the world inscribed into the risen flesh of the Son of God. And it is here, in this risen and ascended human being that my hope for universal salvation is grounded. How can we know that God will one day deliver all? Because God has already declared his hand in the resurrection. It has been done—so it will come to pass.
And all this promise was wrapped up in the life of a little human baby in a manger in Bethlehem.
That, at least, is something of what may be a little distinctive about a universalist’s understanding of Christmas.
Above is the third part of the Nomad Podcast interview of Robin Parry. The other parts are: Is Christmas really for everyone? and Israel’s Christmas brings ours.
4 thoughts on “Parry—Christmas for everyone!”
Alex: Heaven will be more wonderful than we can imagine. Not long now – at 77 the time is approaching, faster with each passing year, when I, in spirit, will join the vast crowd described in Rev. 7:9, or will ascend with a glorified body if Jesus returns before I, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones used to put it, “depart this short and uncertain earthly life and pilgrimage.”
A few months ago, as I lay in bed beside my dear wife who is spending her last years in a state of dementia, God gave me a wonderful dream. In it, my darling wife was in heaven, looking as lovely as she did when we first met, wearing a lovely gown in a large room. She was alone and she was dancing, gliding around the floor so gracefully. And my wife had never danced in her life! It was something we never did.
I am no poet, but I had to write down what I had seen. The words seemed to flow from my hand so easily. I usually forget dreams as soon as I wake up but I remember every detail of this one. Here is the poem. Please tell me if this is not appropriate for a blog, I am a novice at blogging.
I entitled it “Dreaming of Future Glory”. I wrote it from the perspective of a stranger who sat beside me in a coffee shop.
Man in Café
A few weeks ago, I for coffee did go to relax in my favourite café.
I looked all around, no friends could be found; they must have gone elsewhere that day;
Just one empty chair, I went and sat there by the side of a man grey and old;
“May I join you?” said I, he smiled in reply, then a wonderful story he told.
He needed an ear, his story to hear, I was happy that role to fulfil;
He spoke of his wife, the love of his life, and how she was dreadfully ill,
Mind no longer sound, no cure to be found; in a few months, no more than a year,
She would be taken and he left forsaken: I blinked back a surfacing tear.
His eyes misted o’er as he thought of the shore on the Mediterranean Sea;
Where he’d fallen in love, like a bolt from above, with a girl as fair as could be.
How on one winter’s night, by the flickering light of a fire slowly struggling for life,
He had gazed in her eyes, as blue as the skies, and asked her to be his dear wife.
One could hear a pin drop, conversation had stopped that day in the little café
Eyes were all trained and every ear strained to hear what the man had to say.
Some chairs were drawn near, the man didn’t care, he wanted the whole world to tell
Love never ceases, it only increases, when two souls in God’s love do dwell.
He paused, wiped his brow, I don’t really know how he could carry on with his tale;
The tension so real, one could almost feel excitement o’er what he’d unveil
Now, in his own words, I’ll record what I heard, as he tenderly spoke of his pain;
‘Though not one to cry, I do know that I will ne’er be the same man again.
“The bride turned every head that day when we wed, as she gracefully walked down the aisle;
Friends and relations said congratulations, the reception took place in fine style
On the lawn, amid flowers – we were spared any showers – of rain in the garden that day
Of my bride’s lovely home; under heaven’s blue dome, and then we were off on our way.”
“Fifty years have gone by, time really does fly, there’s so very much more I could tell,
About life o’er the sea, on continents three, some places not known very well.
She gave children to me – not one, two, or three – but nine who would gladden our lives;
Five girls and four boys, full of promise and joys; they all now have husbands or wives.”
“We made plans for when we’d retire and then we would roam over land and o’er main,
We might even fly, like eagles on high, to that beautiful seashore in Spain.
But it wasn’t to be, God’s plan was different, you see; as I’ve said, she became desperately ill,
She now cannot walk, stand up, even talk – it’s hard to believe it’s God’s will.”
“Through my darkness did gleam a wonderful dream, which I have to tell you about;
It was given you see, out of God’s love for me, to remove from my mind any doubt;
That He holds my wife dear, the dream made that clear, her future immeasur’bly better
Than her life here below, in this dark vale of woe; the Lord will never forget her.”
“I saw my dear wife, not as now in this life, but just as she was when we wed.
As lovely as ever, I know that never have such thoughts entered my head.
I reached out my hand – to draw her close to me and – to tell her in words unexpressed,
My love is e’en deeper and I want to keep her as close as I can to my breast.”
“She wore a silk gown, a golden tan-brown, its skirts reaching down to the floor;
And a necklace that seemed to me as I dreamed, like one I had bought her before.
My eyes opened wide, I was watching her glide so gracefully round that great hall;
She was dancing, ‘tis true, I cried for I knew I was watching a heavenly ball.”
“I awoke with a start, and thought in my heart that God may have taken my love
to His home far away, where all His will stay in mansions in Heaven above.
‘Please Lord, don’t take her. You’ll not forsake her, but I’m still not ready, you see,
For her to depart’, I prayed from my heart; His grace was sufficient for me.”
“By dawn’s early light, I feared that she might have departed this sad world of death;
I feared for the worst, my eyes ready to burst .. into tears had she breathed her last breath.
Then, pleasant surprise, she opened her eyes, her face with a radiance glowing
No words did I hear, her eyes told me, “My dear, ‘tis a wonderful place where I’m going.”
“If dreams have a meaning, from mine I am gleaning our future will ever be glorious,
On that faraway strand in a beautiful land with those who have gone there before us;
And that dream was given to tell me of heaven and even my hopes to enhance;
That one day, in that place, by God’s marvellous grace, I will join my beloved and dance.”
Man in Café
The old man drained his cup and slowly got up; he said, “thank you for listening, ‘twas grand;”
Many were weeping, one was still keeping damp hankies gripped tight in her hand.
He limped o’er the floor; then went through the door — he was going to see his sweetheart;
I remained in a trance, but I know they will dance, and never again be apart.
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Wow! What a powerful poem—thanks for sharing!