Summary: Christ wants us to be healthy. The road to health begins with a desire to be healthy, a willingness to leave bad habits, and then a desire to share health insights with others.
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god!
Shakespeare’s Hamlet: full of admiration for the human race. Taken by the beauty and grace of the human form; captivated by our dexterity and our almost boundless versatility. Hamlet is like James Weldon Johnson, who imagines that day of Creation when God stepped out in space and said, "I’ll make me a man", and God outdid Himself and said, "That’s good; that’s real good".
Humanity is, without argument, the very crown of God’s creation.
The only trouble is that we get sick. Illness attacks the beauty of God’s creation; sickness tarnishes our perfection. We get sick and ultimately we die. Although this is true not only of human beings but also of all creation, we are the ones who know that we were made for more than that. We were destined, in the mind and heart of our creator, for eternity. Says the poet, "Thou wilt not leave us in the dust; Thou madest man, he knows not why, He thinks he was not made to die"
No, in the ultimate sense we were not made to die, nor were we made to be sick. We were made good, we were made whole, in the perfect image of our Creator. But we do get sick. We are not whole. Why not? And what are we to do about our sickness?
In the Advent season we think about the coming of Christ. Advent is a season for hoping and dreaming. It is a season during which all the fears and anxieties built up during the past year are set aside, as we understand in some fresh way that God has come, Emmanuel, the Word made flesh. Advent is a season for healing, for starting over, for feeling the world’s freshness because Christ has come. God is become man, whole and complete.
This year we are going to use Advent to think about health, the health Christ brings. The thesis of all that we will do during the Advent season is that when Christ comes, He comes to make us whole; He can restore us to fellowship with the Father. He comes as the Great Physician to give us health; He comes as the balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. It is Christ who is the giver of health.
The theme text which will inform each of these services is one which Luke gives us about the child Jesus, "And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in divine and human favor." That is, Jesus grew in intellectual ability (wisdom), in physical strength (stature), in spiritual maturity (divine favor), and in emotional maturity (human favor). I will be preaching about physical health, stature, today; and about Christ the wisdom of God on Christmas Day. Rev. Arnold will bring two messages on Christ the giver of spiritual maturity and the giver of emotional health. Taken together, we believe that we can share a pattern of health which God intends and which Christ is bringing.
There will be a missions note in these messages also. The 67th Psalm, from which our theme is drawn, speaks of God’s "saving health among all nations". We will talk about Christ’s mission of salvation and health for all peoples. The coming of Christ means health, not just for us who know Him, but for all peoples.
Now, just in case someone is already beginning to wonder whether the pastor has turned into a faith healer, slapping people upside the head and selling prayer cloths, let me remind you that the Scriptures are replete with stories of healing. I had scores of texts from which I could have chosen today. Every page of the Gospels tells us of the Jesus who went about teaching, preaching, and healing. There can be no question about the Christ who is the giver of health. But what does that mean, and how are we today to find healing?
None of the Biblical texts is more attractive and more filled with meaning than the one in John’s Gospel, chapter 5, where there is the man at the pool of Bethesda. He had been sitting there for some thirty-eight years, awaiting his chance to be healed. Let’s listen in on the story:
John 5:2-9, 17
In 1876 a young physician, John Harvey Kellogg, fresh out of Bellevue Medical College in New York, came to Battle Creek, Michigan. There he took over a small center called the Western Health Reform Institute. Kellogg had been recruited by the leaders of the fledgling Seventh-day Adventist denomination for this task. They and he were convinced that Americans were destroying their health. Kellogg and the Adventists believed that we meat-eating, caffeine-drinking, intestine-neglecting, pampered Americans were ruining ourselves and, not incidentally, our relationship to God with poor health habits.