As I bustle about during this hectic month of advent, Christmas words keep popping up everywhere. Words like Peace, Hope, and Joy. Glittering and full of goodwill - these words cause feelings of happiness, a promise of better things to come. And I love it. I feel the wonder and beauty of the season, sharply contrasted with the bustle and glaring ugliness of greedy shoppers. The ethereal glory of twilight, laughter, and sparkling lights adorns the, already gorgeous, ideas of Peace, Hope, and Joy. And Peace, Hope, and Joy will always lead me to Romans 5. Could there be a more beautiful outline of these three sisters? If it's possible for you, I encourage you to read it aloud:
5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, wehave peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
As I read through this passage, it was the last verse, verse 11, that really caught my attention. I mean, after all of the amazing gifts that are outlined in verses 1-10, how could verse 11 boast, "more than that.."?? And what is the "more than that"? At first glance, I thought the words "rejoice in God" were describing how we feel about this "more" and that it was in the verses to come. Upon closer inspection, the Rejoicing IS the More Than That! It hit me like a powerful wave at the beach. What could be a purpose high enough to be the punctuation mark at the end of a sentence filled with God's love and Christ's death for us? It would have to be the very presence of the Holy One Himself. I could not help but think of the tabernacle God had the Israelites build and carry through the wilderness. It was incredibly precise and burdensome. Why would they go to all that trouble? What could be worth that? Let's read about it in Exodus:
35 “Thus you shall do to Aaron and to his sons, according to all that I have commanded you. Through seven days shall you ordain them,36 and every day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement. Also you shall purify the altar, when you make atonement for it, and shall anoint it to consecrate it.37 Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it, and the altar shall be most holy. Whatever touches the altar shall become holy.
38 “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly.39 One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight.40 And with the first lamb a tenth measure of fine flour mingled with a fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and a fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering.41 The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it a grain offering and its drink offering, as in the morning, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord.42 It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there.43 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory.44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests.45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God.46 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.
Wow! The entire purpose of all the hassle of the Tabernacle, of all the sacrifices, of all the incredibly difficult rituals, was to experience God's presence!! Yes, it's that amazing. And we get to rejoice in God every day because of all of the other gifts of Romans 5. Yes, experiencing God's presence is the only thing that could ever be termed More Than That as compared to all the gifts we have been given in Christ.
And that does make my day merry and bright. It gives me peace, hope and joy.