I am amazed how biblical passages, texts, and hymns, so familiar for many years, can still inspire and challenge me, giving me fresh insight. It’s especially true of the scriptures and songs surrounding the Christmas story.
This year I have been reflecting on a single line from one of the most popular of children’s carols, one which is the first many of us learnt. The last line of ‘Away in a manger’ says, ‘And fit us for heaven to live with you there.’
Maybe few of us who sing these words give a thought about what it means to be ‘fit for heaven’.
The word ‘fit’ in our present culture has several connotations and probably the most common is being ‘fit’, meaning physical health through exercise, gym, and diet. But the definition which most aptly describes the word in the carol is to be made ‘suitable’ for. That is the prayer expressed in this simple song - that Jesus may help us to be ready to meet Him, as we enter heaven.
Scripture makes it clear that that baby in the manager was the person who, through His death and resurrection, made it possible for all those who believe in Him to have their sins forgiven and gain access into Heaven. So, Jesus opened up the way to Heaven for us. But Scripture also shows us that accepting Jesus as our Saviour is just the start of a journey of transformation. Jesus’ plan for us, which should be our desire to fulfil, is for us to become more like Him. This process is known as sanctification.
As we allow Jesus, by His Spirit, to do His transforming work, He will show us those things in our life which are not Christ-like and help us to deal with them. We will become more like Him and, indeed, more fit for heaven.
As we pursue this goal of becoming more like Jesus, let us take encouragement from the following verses of Scripture:
‘Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think’ (Romans 12:2).
‘Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy’ (Ephesians 4:23-24).
‘Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus on whom our faith depends from start to finish’ (Hebrews 12:1b-2a).
‘We are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Saviour. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control’ (Philippians 3: 20-21).
As we allow the Holy Spirit to continue His transforming work in each of us, making us fit for heaven, let’s take further encouragement from the Apostle John:
‘Yes, dear friends we are already God’s children, and we can’t even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when he comes we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who believe this will keep themselves pure, just as Christ is pure’ (1 John 3:2-3, NLT).
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