Theme: Our Need for Redemption
In this week’s Christmas lessons, we reflect on the wonder of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of God’s great love for lost and helpless sinners.
Scripture: Luke 1:26-38
Some years ago, a British writer by the name of John Ruskin wrote a parable called “An Ounce of Slime.” Ruskin imagined a case where he is visiting a mill town, and coming out of the sewer near this mill is what we would call slime. It is one of the worst substances we can imagine; it is foul smelling and has a very bad color. As far as we can tell, it has no value whatsoever. Ruskin asked the question, “What is that slime composed of?” He went on to answer, “Well, it’s composed of clay, and it has sand in it. There is also soot, which is carbon, and there is water. That’s what is present in the slime.”
Ruskin continues by asking what we can do with those things. Let’s take each of those elements, and imagine its highest potential and greatest value. What happens when you take the clay and purify it? When you remove all the impurities out of the clay you have white earth, which when it is taken by a skilled craftsman and formed, is able to be turned into valuable porcelain, porcelain so valuable that it can sit upon a king’s table. If you process it even further in ways that we are unable to do, but which nature itself performs, within the earth and under pressure, it becomes clear and hard, and gathers up the rays of the sun. It then becomes a sapphire.
Now take the sand and work upon it in the same manner. Under pressure, the sand will become hard and clear, and become an opal. What about the soot? What happens when you purify it and manipulate it under pressure? It too becomes clear, and also the hardest substance known. The carbon becomes a diamond. How about the water, which is so muddied by all those impurities that we think it is hardly fit for anything? The water purifies itself. The water evaporates, goes up into the sky, condenses, and falls as rain. And depending on the time of year, it falls as snowflakes, one of the most beautiful things in nature. Every flake utterly different.
Here you have from this ounce of slime a potential sapphire, opal, diamond, and a snowflake. Now, that should not surprise us, should it? If God is able to create a world in which wonderful and amazing things like that can happen, God is also able to do amazing, even miraculous, things within the supernatural realm in order to provide for our salvation. As a matter of fact, what is more reasonable than that? We are creatures who possess bodies, spirits and souls. As sinners, we need a Savior to redeem our whole person.
What if we just lived on and on? What if we found eternal life and lived forever in exactly the form in which we find ourselves now, growing increasingly hard, increasingly bitter, increasingly arrogant, and increasingly selfish? That would be no salvation at all. That would be a living hell. We need a God who is not only able to save us physically, but spiritually, and to make from the slime of our spiritual lives—which we ourselves have made—the purity of spiritual jewels who by his grace are fit to stand before him.
From the parable in today’s lesson, contrast the individual items in slime with what each one can become. What does that teach us about God?
What would our lives be like—as well as the lives of others—if we lived forever as we are now?
Reflection: Knowing that we are not yet what we will one day be, how ought that to govern how we live today? What actions or attitudes do we need to stop or strengthen in response to our salvation and the presence of God’s Spirit who is at work within us?