Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Hope for the Future

"How does one know that God is good if not through the actions of people who claim to know him and the inactions of those who claim not to?” - Jim Rice, Charlotte, NC Emergent Cohort member

At left: Archbishop Desmond Tutu

I was asked to say a few words about “Christmas Hope for the Future” as part of the Christmas presentation last Sunday at church. Here’s what I said:

By the third Chapter of genesis, we’d blown it so bad that God said to Adam, “You are banished…from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which you had been taken.”

But God wasn’t done. In the second chapter of Luke, God bypasses the religious authorities and sends a messenger, an angel, to shepherds in the fields. That would be like sending the message straight to homeless people today:

"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord…Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

God turned it all around. In His grace and mercy He sent us a savior. A savior not only to reconcile us to God, but as Jesus said of his own mission:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

In thinking of Christmas hope for the future, just like the writer of Hebrews reminds us, we do well to remember our great cloud of witnesses and the acts of faith they were commended for, from the time of Jesus right up through the present and into eternity.

So many of us have our own testimonies, of salvation, healing, reconciliation, and awakening. And God’s Spirit has been at work through the centuries …

Preaching good news to the poor.
Sending His church to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
and releasing the oppressed.

When have we seen this?

When tens of thousands of Christians stood by candlelight in the town squares of Eastern Europe until the Iron Curtain fell.

When Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood against Hitler, who was defeated, and Israel was born.

When Mao tried to eradicate Christianity and religion in China by killing millions. But now the church of Christ in China is one of the fastest growing in the world.

When Archbishop Desmond Tutu worked to end South African Apartheid. When Christian Member of Parliament, William Wilberforce worked for the abolition of slavery in England. When slavery was then ended in America, followed by Jim Crow laws and segregation through the work of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., through to the election of an African American US President.

God calls each of us to carry Christmas hope to the poor, the imprisoned, the blind and the oppressed. Who among us will be a Bonhoeffer, a Wilberforce, a Tutu, a King or a president?

Our Christmas hope for the future is in the Kingdom of God, that Christ ushered in, spreading as a light in this dark world until Jesus returns.

Christmas hope is in the atonement brought about by the Christ child, reconciling us with God, with one another in community, making us whole within ourselves and reconciling us to the world, and the world to God.

Christmas blessings!


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