Saturday, December 20, 2008

Come, Lord Jesus

Advent and Christmas is the season of Christ's first appearing. We celebrate the mystery of God taking on flesh and becoming one of us. In light of all that the Incarnation means, this season fills our hearts with joy and hope.

Christ has come. Light has descended into a dark and cold world. Life, peace, and righteousness have landed and the work of liberating the world from the forces of sin, death, and chaos has begun in earnest.

Christ has taken all that is wrong with you and with me and with all the peoples and the powers of this world and nailed it to the cross. By entering life in this fallen world and then suffering Calvary, Jesus has claimed for his own experience all the trials and travails we have experienced and will experience, all the failures of justice and truth and love that mar our lives and our societies, all the pain and hunger and sickness that is our lot as human beings.

In His life, suffering, and death, Christ has told us that we are not alone. God is not some remote, disinterested observer of our struggles and pain but our humble and loving Lord who deigned to leave His place on high and become our partner and companion in suffering.

Christ has not only bodily suffered on the cross all that each of us has unjustly suffered but He has suffered the just penalty and the holy wrath that our own sins deserve. He has declared His solidarity with the victim and the victimizer, sharing the unjust pain of the innocent and the just penalty of the guilty, offering Himself up to the Father for their redemption and reconciliation, both with God and with one another.

Christ has risen, defeating death and hell. He has justified those who would believe in him, being justified Himself by His obedience to the will of the Father.

Christ has purchased a people, ransoming them from the Fall, killing their corruption and stain, and raising them to the life He eternally shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the fellowship of the Trinity.

Christ has ascended to sit on His throne at the right hand of the Father, leaving behind His presence in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit-empowered Church. He is our Head in heaven and we His Body on earth. Within the arms of the Church, we see the Kingdom of God already being realized here and now, for there sinners are reconciled to God and to one another. There, we are bathed in the river of living water and we feast on the body and blood of Christ together with all the sons and daughters of the King. In the Church, choirs sing the praises of God in every tongue, and humans are made into angels. In the Church, the lions lie with the lambs and the warriors beat their swords into plowshares. There, we encounter the Word and He transforms us, teaching and encouraging us to be like Him. From the Church, the Kingdom is colonizing the earth, freeing captives from sin and death, striving for peace and justice for all, changing the hearts of nations, and bringing food to the hungry and clothes to the naked.

This is a look at what we commemorate at Christmas and, in a real way, participate in. It is about God's great work that began with the miraculous birth of our Lord at Bethlehem 2000 years ago, and it is about what Christ is doing in the present.

This season is also about the future. Advent is about anticipation. Not only are we commemorating and participating in the mystery of Christ, but we are awaiting His second appearing. When we think about the Child in the manger, we must remember that this Child grew up and returned to heaven to join His Father so that He could come back and finish what He started here below. His first coming means that the invasion has begun and His death and resurrection means that the decisive blow has already been struck. His second coming, however, means final and overwhelming victory.

In a world where the vision of Christmas has not yet been fully realized, we desperately need the hope that it will be soon. Though the redemption of Creation and humanity is furiously underway, our world is still broken. It is still a cold and dark place at times, and it may even seem like the powers of evil are winning. Disease continues to steal away the life from our bones and death strikes down the young in the prime of life. The powerful still oppress the weak and the corrupt still get away with injustice. In the face of all this heartache and grief that is so common to our experience, we must remember that Christ has already overcome the world. It is a foregone conclusion that the powers of light will be victorious. Heaven is coming to earth. Christ is coming. Christmas is the glorious down payment and guarantee of that hope.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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