Posted by: Terry | December 12, 2016

Advent – My security and responsibility

Adventskranz 3. Advent

There are two songs that express my thoughts this Advent Season. The first is “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts, the second is “Happy Xmas (War is over)” by John Lennon. The four Sundays of Advent are usually called: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love. We live at a time when these four are desperately needed, each of these songs speaks to the state of the world and our responsibility living in it.

Isaak Watts published “Joy to the World” in 1719, inspired by God’s promise, found in Psalm 98, to free the world from its bondage and decay, to establish a new Kingdom of justice and right. It is the most published Christmas Hymn in North America.

“Joy to the world/ the Lord is come / Let earth receive her king.” The message of the Gospels is that the long awaited Messiah, the promised King of Israel, had arrived. “The kingdom of  God is at hand” was the message of Jesus from beginning. He came to start something new, NT Wright calls it a revolution.

To a world that was in bondage as a result of ignoring God, who he is and what he does, Jesus  made the hope of freedom a reality (the true meaning of forgiveness). God was not tearing up a parking ticket, he was changing the direction of how we drive. We have hope in the world because there is a new King, who is greater than dictators or presidents. He is king now and forever – “Joy to the World the Lord IS come.” The King has begun the process to restore and set right all wrong and injustice, not in some vague apocalyptic event in the distant future, but now, everyday.

Free from the bondage of our own devices we find internal peace, peace with others, and peace with God. The enemy of peace is insecurity, the natural offspring of fear and guilt – both are defeated with the coming of the Messiah. I need not fear the future because I know who holds it, and the bondage of my guilt is gone, forgiven.

There is joy in knowing that the world changed 2000 years ago; regardless of a persons viewpoint you must acknowledge that something changed in the world that Friday that Jesus died. The stream of history that is recorded in the Bible makes it clear that the promised Messiah did come and that the world would be different. Joy is the choice to live in the reality that the present is not how things will always be, and that there is a God overseeing it all.

The coming of the Messiah-King is the ultimate expression that we are loved and accepted by God, yes he did love the world so much that he gave his Son. In him we see the Father, we learn to know him, we find release from all the entanglements that bring fear and guilt. We experience the love, the unconditional love, and that changes everything.

It is unfortunate that many fail to grasp the wonder of Jesus, Christ, Messiah, King. Even more have accepted a one-dimensional perspective of the mission of Christ that says he came to blot-out a list of bad things we have done, so that we can one day leave this world and live in heaven escaping some vague, Dante invented, fiery existence. Since the mid 1800’s much of Christianity has embraced the idea that Jesus came to manage behavior – forgive us for our past bad actions, then encourage us to try to behave ourselves until we die, or he returns. Our thin hope is that we get to live eternally in a Platonic, ether-worldly existence, playing harps and singing.

God is in the process of restoring this world so it can be the meeting place of God and his creation; this world will be our home, a restored, wonderful, Eden-like place, with God’s presence in the center. Jesus said that “As the Father is sending me, I am sending you.” We are his image on the Earth, his representatives, his face before the rest of the world. His plan is to use people to represent him, and to change the world around. Thus John Lennon’s song asks the right question.

So this is Christmas

And what have you done

Another year over

And a new one just begun

His song expresses the longing of creation, groaning to have some kind of redemption and justice. Now I am sure that Lennon did not base his question on the coming of Messiah and God’s Kingdom, but he is right in asking the question that we must all ask: What have I done to promote the kingdom of God on this earth, what have I done to make it more like the Kingdom of god? What have I done to reduce conflict?

What have I done to show hope to people living in need? What have I done to promote peace? Do I choose joy in the face of despair and fear? Do I choose to love? How do I respond to those in need, to the oppressed, the trafficked, the lonely, the hungry, the poor? How do I fight injustice and prejudice? Do I reach out in love or in judgement to those who live a lifestyle that is different than mine? How do I treat the environment and its creatures, God’s creation?

Advent reminds us that the Messiah, the promised one, did in fact come. He began his kingdom, and it lives on now, and one day it will be complete. But advent reminds us that God’s instrument of change is people, living in the reality of a new Kingdom and demonstrating to the world that there is a better way, that God is working, that there is hope, peace, joy, and love.

Merry Christmas to all,

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