The song IMAGINE written by John Lennon spent 30 weeks on the billboard charts beginning in September 1971. It is often spoken of as his legacy to the world. In this song, Lennon paints a dream of an unrealistic world with no Heaven or hell. He dreamed of a world with no countries, borders or wars. John’s hope for peace was clearly admirable however he could have imagined all he wanted to but it would not have changed the reality that there is a Heaven and a hell and John failed to understand the impact of sin on our world.
Recently during a presentation, I asked everyone gathered to ponder this question; “What is the greatest blessing in your life.” Imagine, if I were to ask you that same question right now, what would your answer be?Beginning with the blessing of life itself our lists could seem endless. Perhaps your list would include many of the following things; mother, father, siblings, spouse, children, grandchildren, grandparents, friends, food, shelter, clothing, job, health, freedom, faith. Yet above all of these things I would submit to you that our greatest blessing in life is God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Pope Francis has declared that beginning last week we should celebrate the next year as a Holy Year of MERCY. He cited the biblical passage for the Holy Year’s theme to be from Luke Chapter 6:36, in which Jesus tells his disciples, “Be merciful as your Father is merciful.” He also stated “A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just.” His hope is that during this year we all can rediscover the joy of God’s mercy.Catholics and non-Catholics alike can all benefit by taking to heartPope Francis’challenge to dedicate a year to focus on God’smercy for us and in turn extend that mercy towards others. I intend to write many more letters this year on this theme of mercy, but here, just a few weeks before Christmas, I want us to zero in on one thing. IMAGINE what life would be like if there was no mercy from God? In other words, imagine what it would be like if the Christ child had not come into the world?As Christians we all look forward to the time when we will share eternal life in Heaven with God. We look forward to the day when we will be reunited with all of our family and friends who have passed from this world before us.
Let’s stick with Lennon’s theme of imagining just a little longer. Imagine what if……yes what if there was no salvation. Imagine what it would be like now if God had not sent us His only son to be born on that first Christmas night. Imagine what if Jesus had not become man? Imagine if Jesus had not taken it upon Himself to pay the price for all of our sins? Just Imagine!Wow, I don’t even like entertaining those thoughts. Life here in this world would be so different if we had no chance for salvation. What a scary thought it is to imagine having to pay the price for our own sins.What if you knew that you had to pay the penalty for every sin and miss deed you committed during this life? As bad as our world is now with war and terrorism imagine what it would be like if everyone knew they would be damned to hell. If people knew there was no chance of forgiveness and reconciliation would we live in a world of an eye for and eye? Without the mercy of God our world might be more like one of those post-apocalyptic movies. We would all be hunkered down in fear.
You see, John Lennon got it wrong in his song. There is a Heaven and Hell. Sin is a reality. Romans 3:10 states: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one;” and in Romans 3:23 Paul is even more emphatic: “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Imagine all you want to, it will not change the reality that we needed to be saved.Happily we live in a world where God’s mercy is plentiful and salvation is possible. God did send His Son into this world to die for our sins. Jesus did pay the price for us. Our God is a God of mercy. He loves us and longs for us to be with Him. Our salvation through Jesus Christ brings us joy and makes life meaningful and worth living.With Christmas less than two weeks away I want to encourage you to continue to imagine a world without Jesus Christ. Imagining a world with no salvation brings us to a heightened sense of awe as we prepare to celebrate Christmas. We should be brought to our knees by the reality that God Himself entered the world as a child in a manger. This child would one day save us all.
I do believe that MERCY is indeed our biggest blessing. It is God’s mercy that puts urgency in our song of anticipation… Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel.Emmanuel means Christ with us. We know that Jesus is God’s own Son. The birth of Jesus ushers in the beginning of the salvation story of mankind.Imagine one day being with God forever!!