We are all in the midst of celebrating Advent and anticipating the joy of Christmas. In most all churches, even the most solemn ones, this is a good time of year where people are expressing love and care for one another. This, indeed, is a small glimpse of what we as followers of Jesus are looking forward to – that Day when Jesus returns to our world in power and glory to complete God’s rule throughout human existence, society, and the entire creation. As it is declared in Titus 2:11-13:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians urges us to “encourage one another” with these words. This is in part what the New Orleans Saints football player, Benjamin Watson, is reminding us of in his recent article expressing his thoughts and feelings about the sad events in Ferguson, Missouri. Despite his confusion and questions, he has a sure and ultimate hope in the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He knows we suffer in a sinful world, but Mr. Watson also knows that someday Christ shall vanquish all sin and evil - both in the world and in ourselves. This is our hope, this is our encouragement, this is what keeps us going.
If we look at the world around us, people are weighed down with the burden of having no hope. They are craving any sign, no matter how small, of healing for our souls. This desperation leads people in our world to demand “justice now” or immediate solutions, but what they usually mean is that they want people punished according to their self-righteous opinions of who is guilty and who is innocent. Thank God that God does not approach us that way, but instead showers us with mercy through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.
As we look forward to God’s Reign of mercy and love through Jesus, we must continue to do what the letter to Titus describes, which is to allow this hope to give us strength to not join in the world’s way of living for the moment, but instead live upright lives that reflect our hope in Christ. This will make us a people characterized by truth, love, and mercy, not coerced opinion, conditional acceptance, and ruthless punishment.
The world’s way may give us the momentary satisfaction of seeking and seizing power over those we condemn and look down upon, but it is a fleeting feeling that only makes the world worse and leaves in us a feeling of self-loathing and disgust. The hope we have in Christ calls us to rise above these base reactions so that we may bring God’s love and mercy into the midst of this world’s turmoil and tragedies.
So let’s be sure to enjoy the graciousness and goodwill that abounds in this Advent-Christmas season. As the great philosopher-minister, Jonathan Edwards, pointed out, such behaviour is not of this world, but is a small experience of the new world God is bringing into being through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In Christ’s Peace,