We received the sad news this morning that the senior pastor at our church when we were downtown died very suddenly. It was a big church and I did not know him personally but I learned a great deal from Pastor Ranwell and am thankful for his ministry. One sermon that particularly stands out was a Christmas one, which I summarised at the time as:
“This is Emmanuel, God with us.
He will never leave you or forsake you. This is the champion of Calvary, the Chief Shepherd and Physician. He is Father to the orphan, the friend who will never forsake you, my Saviour, and the King of all.
This is Emmanuel for a fear/power context: trials are a sign of God’s presence, not his abandonment, and God is with us in the trials, empowering us.”
These are comforting words as Pastor Ranwell’s church grieves his very great loss, to know Jesus’ presence and power in our lives.
At our church this morning, Pastor Dondo was similarly preoccupied with Jesus. Starting from the first book of the Bible, he rattled off a list of what several books of the Bible reveal about Jesus. It was amazing!
- Genesis reveals him as creator.
- Exodus as Passover lamb.
- Leviticus as High Priest.
- Numbers as water in the desert.
- Deuteronomy as our guide.
- Joshua as commander of the Lord’s army.
- Judges as deliverer.
- Ruth as our kinsman redeemer.
- 1 Samuel as prophet, priest and king.
- 2 Samuel as the rock of salvation.
- 1 King as our personal King.
- 2 Kings as the reigning King.
- 1 Chronicles as the son of David coming to rule.
- 2 Chronicles as the eternal king.
- Ezra as the priest proclaiming freedom.
- Nehemiah as the one who restores what was broken.
- Esther as the protector of his people.
- Job as the mighty yet gentle sovereign.
- Psalms as our song in the night and joy in the morning.
- Proverbs as our wisdom and strong tower.
- Ecclesiastes as the meaning and purpose of life.
- Song of songs as the author or faithful love.
- Isaiah as the wonderful counsellor, mighty God, prince of peace, everlasting father, that is the father of everlasting things.
Many of these resound with themes that would be familiar to those following my interest in Tanzanian theology, such as the uniqueness and power of God and trusting him in life’s trials.
Pastor Dondo said, this is the Jesus we celebrate today! These are all ways we see Jesus in the Bible, but only in Christmas that we find God come to us in human form. For him, these Bible themes climax at Christmas as all those things that are true about God come close to us in Jesus. This has been my own experience too. And so, he said, Christmas is a time to rediscover what Jesus can do in our lives, what the love of God means for us and how we might become more mature worshippers of him.
Pastor Dondo went on to talk about offering oneself to God as a sacrifice, and generosity as a key part of the Christian life. He said, there is no such thing as a gift too extravagant for Jesus. True believers are open-handed because they know how great is the gift God has given them. Pastor Ranwell gave up a lucrative job at the Bank of Tanzania to become a pastor; Pastor Dondo was a very successful architect, having even designed Tanzania’s Parliament House. These sacrifices, though great, are not too extravagant for a God who gave the greatest gift of all, himself. For however many days he gives us, we give ourselves to him.
Categories: Written by Tamie
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.