Pastor’s Perspective – December 2023
The season of Advent, in the traditional Christian calendar, begins with a reflection on the second coming of Jesus. While non-liturgical congregations might begin a four-part series on the birth narratives on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, those who utilize the lectionary readings, will begin not with the Jewish people’s desire for salvation from Rome, or for a Jewish King in Israel, but with our own contemporary yearning for the Lordship of Jesus in our world today.
Doing so helps us to recognize that while the sacred gift of Christmas past has given to us salvation and identified our Lord and King, we continue to await many of the blessings of the coming Kingdom. While we know that our Savior has walked the earth we still, in our moments of darkness and suffering, ask, “How long O Lord?”
The Christmas story reminds us that Jesus’ birth took place in the fullness of time. Not a moment too late, nor a moment too soon. It reminds us that the people had experienced a deep darkness. They labored and lived under exile and oppression. Jesus Christ was born in the midst of violence, darkness, and war.
Jesus grew to be a man amongst the people of God in Israel. He became a prophet, a teacher, and a rabbi. But little did they know that the man who was born in a manger was the Son of God. Those who believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God (think of Peter) were infuriated at the thought that he would die on a Roman cross outside of the Gates of Jerusalem. They were shocked and surprised and terrified. But on the third day, Jesus rose from death. God’s presence was made known. Our Savior had come. The resurrection shows us that the One who was born of a virgin in a manger in Bethlehem was not just a miraculous child, but our Savior and God, sent to redeem the people by His blood.
Certainly, the followers of Jesus anticipated that this resurrected King would quickly take His throne and bring the Kingdom to the Earth. Once again Jesus confounded our expectations. He rose to Heaven promising that one day He would return on the clouds; not as a helpless child, nor as one who would succumb to the whips and nails of the oppressor, but as a conquering king.
Once again, the setting has been foretold as a time of war, a time of darkness, a time of deep and sinful oppression. A time in which the world has rejected God’s word and despised God’s people. In the fullness of time, once again, God’s light will overcome the darkness.
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, we do so in a time in which the world is swallowed in deep darkness and oppression. Sin and faithlessness are evidenced in a great turning away, even in the Church, from the truth of God. Many believe, in secular and religious realms, that the end is near. From where will our hope come? How can we be saved?
This is why we begin our celebration of Christ’s coming, with the recognition that He is coming AGAIN! The same Jesus that was born in Bethlehem and crucified outside of Jerusalem, with few but His own family with Him, will return for all to see.
But when Jesus returns, how will he find his church? Will he discover that his church is living in the past? Or will he find the church communicating God’s love and sacrifice faithfully and with hope to a world that would be otherwise lost? The time is short, and darkness seems to be falling upon the land. Shine your light, shower the world with God’s grace, show God’s agape love. Forgive 70 times seven and turn the other cheek. Jesus has come. Jesus has saved. Jesus will come again.