Friday, December 24, 2010

It's that time of year...and are you hearing the same old story???

The Saviour is born

It’s an old story.
It’s a well known story.
It’s a story that is not widely believed anymore.
It’s a story that provides a nice, warm, fuzzy feel to Christmas celebrations.
It’s a story that has been diluted to the concept of being nice to one another and helping and sharing with others.
It’s a story about God and power and sin and sacrifice and life and death.
It’s a story about me…

It is impossible to understand what this story means without knowing and accepting that this is all about a gift that you and I do not deserve…are never capable of deserving nor earning. Christmas is not…as some would say…all about the good within each of us. Rather Christmas magnifies/intensifies/amplifies our own selfish nature and inability to live and act out of concern for others. Hence frustration, guilt, greed, etc. Like Paul, the most worthless of sinners?

It is a story about the faithfulness and consistency of God’s love. It is a story about the His willingness to come down to my level…and lower in his dying…to be broken for me that I might live unconscious of my sin and guilt and unworthiness. Rather He would have me conscious of one simple fact…I am redeemed in the blood of Jesus.

For the true meaning of this Christmas story is found not in the events of that time surrounding the birth of Christ…but in what was to follow…his obedience to God’s will…his willing service to all people…his innocent suffering and death on the cross for me …his ultimate resurrection and ascension to the throne of heaven.

The baby comes to live and die in order that I might live forever.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Just what are you looking for?

After proclaiming the approaching Kingdom of God and then pointing out Jesus as the very Lamb of God, we now find John asking "Are you the one who was to come or should we expect someone else?" John the Baptist's question is almost shocking. Has John lost faith? Is the closeness of death calling up his doubts? Or is it more that Jesus was not the winnowing fork of judgment that John had proclaimed? Rather than gathering up the chaff (sinners) for the fire or laying the ax to the root of the tree Jesus was proclaiming forgiveness and eating and drinking with the outcasts and sinners of the society. He was not leading a rebellion against the Roman authorities, but calling his followers to turn the other cheek and go the extra distance, all the while praying for those who persecuted them and blessing anyone who cursed them. So is it any wonder that John begins to question if Jesus is the one.

When reflecting on this it struck me that this forgiving, healing, accepting Jesus doesn't seem to be the one many Christians are looking for even today. Diseases and natural disasters are pointed up as signs of God's judgment on sinners. Warnings are proclaimed about the end of the world, the coming destruction and the fires of hell. Here is John's winnowing fork and axe.

Yet Jesus' response to John's question point us in a different direction. It's not about John's or our expectations of what Jesus should be, but it is all about who Jesus is. He is the one heals the blind, the lame, and the deaf. He raises the dead. He preaches good news of God's grace for all people. Here is the reality of who Jesus is. Here is the reality of God. Here is the reality of grace.

And in this response Jesus is calling us to follow him in this way. For the true community of God, the church, is a place for healing, compassion, acceptance, and hospitality for everyone. When we begin to put this into practice in our faith communities and in our personal daily lives then the Kingdom of God is truly near as this grace is found in us and expressed continually through our words, attitudes and actions.

PS...just a note on a completely different topic. Southern Cross Reformer was selected as one of the top 50 blogs by Theology Degrees Online. Follow the link below to see the list as it includes some great blogs by Lutherans around the world and check out the site itself. Some good opportunity for online theological education.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:-12)

"The kingdom of heaven has come near." Other translations say "is near". Are John's words really simply a warning of impending judgment which is how they are often interpreted. Or is John simply reminding us of something that is inherently true about life and living?

Personally, I believe it to be a reminder that this world in which we live and the lives we live in this world are done so in the presence of a God who is personally present and involved in our lives and in his creation. It is not just Christians who live in the presence of God or on the cusp of his kingdom. We all are there. The difference is whether or not we live in an awareness of this fact. When the Kingdom which is near truly breaks out and into our lives then there will be an awakening...not so much to judgment, but to the simple fact that we are always dwelling in the presence of God.