There is something deep within our hearts that draws us away from mutual benefit for all too selfish ambition. We are controlled, the Bible tells us, by a predisposition to selfishness and rebellion, which it calls sin. The effects are felt across the world, in nations, communities, families and our own hearts.
At Christmas we celebrate the beginning of God’s great intervention to bring peace to the world. To do so God does not arbitrate, legislate, or send an army. Rather, in a totally counterintuitive move, God sent his Son as a human being – a fragile, dependent baby Jesus. His task was to proclaim, teach, model and eventually bring peace to the world. His great command is “love one another”. For all he did and said he was crucified on a Roman cross.
Yet through his death, in a deft move of supreme justice, God brought judgment upon sin and at the same time paid the penalty for that sin. God’s forgiveness is the foundation and heart of peace.
Advent is that time in the year when we celebrate again the coming of Jesus. We are in a very different place to those shepherds, however. We are more like the droves of people who heard and responded to the words of John the Baptist, to “prepare the way for the Lord” (Matthew 3:3). In doing so we encourage each other in welcoming Jesus into the world and into our lives. John’s baptism was an outward show to prepare for the Messiah by repentance – turning around from past sin and moving in a new direction. So as we approach this new season of welcoming Jesus, self-examination is key. Let us acknowledge our need of Jesus . . . because he is the only one who can bring true peace to our lives, our community and our world.
On the morning Jesus was born, the angels sang because hope, true hope, was also born that day. God had embarked on an audacious plan to bring peace, righteousness and joy to the world once, and for all (Romans 14:17). In a sense it is still coming and we are still waiting.
And that’s what Advent is about; a celebration of Christ’s first coming and an anticipation of his second.
Stephen L Baxter