This is the last week of celebrating Advent, the ‘arrival’ of God. Although not the only key event in God’s story, the coming of Jesus as a baby in the manger is definitely a big deal, a turning point in where the story goes next. It’s kind of unfortunate that our culture has tended to sentimentalize this event. I have to admit I get to feeling a bit jaded by it all, oversaturated by all the sweet images of a baby and Precious Moments figurines! We may miss just how powerful this event is for understanding the good news of God with us.
So what is the good news, or gospel? Christians believe that as God, baby Jesus grew up to live a perfect human life and sacrifice his life on the cross to pay the price for our sin and reconcile us with God. As wonderful and true as this is, I’ve begun to believe there’s so much more that he was up to. What if what Jesus did on the cross later in the story was not simply to forgive us and give us eternal life when we die?
Here’s my quick, simple version of a Christmas Gospel: God (Father, Son and Spirit) loved the world so much that the Father sent the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring us home into the life of God.
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Guest Blog | Dawn Neldon
(Excerpt from message December 20, 2015, RBCPC ~ Love, the Turning Point
While his birth at Christmas was the first glimpse of the promise of God’s love, Jesus, through his life embodied and lived out the reality of the extent of God’s love for us. I mean, he didn’t just come and stand at a distance. And when you think about it he could have come and died without truly giving himself to others and the result would have been the same. Justice would have been satisfied.
But he dove in. He spent time with people. Messy people. He invested in real, meaningful relationships. He served others and expressed the heart of God’s love for us all the way to the cross. See, just as our voices take the ideas in our head and make them a reality by speaking them out loud, the life of Jesus speaks the reality of God’s love to all creation.
God so loved the world that he would stop at NOTHING to find a way to have a relationship with us…to offer us true, full life. This is the Gospel. Not that Jesus came and died so that we would be forgiven (that’s part of the story). But the real true good news of the manger and the cross is that they both happened so that we could experience true relationship with Jesus and by so doing experience life to the full in him.
Now this is all good, important theology but honestly, so what? Theology means nothing if it doesn’t impact us if it doesn’t compel us to be different as a result. So how does the reality of the manger compel us to live differently?
Let’s take a look at John 13:34-35
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Yikes. Love each other as he loved us? That doesn’t leave a lot of room for interpretation. That sounds hard. Too bad he didn’t just say sit in the same room with each other. Tolerate one another as I have tolerated you. No, he had to throw down the gauntlet. Love one another as I loved you and it’s by this kind of love that the world will know you are my disciples. Oh wait, you mean it’s not by the political groups I associate with? The world doesn’t know that we are your disciples by the articles for or against a variety of things on Facebook? shoot.
The result of the Jesus speaking the love of God into our lives is that we are then compelled to love one another. Loving one another as Jesus loves means that we must draw near. We can’t stand at a distance or keep people at arms length. We must live out the reality of what He evidenced for us…that love requires community. Think about it…love can not be fully expressed unless you share it with others. I believe that community not only allows us to love but it teaches us how to love fully.
I mentioned earlier that Drew and I lived in Mexico for a time. It was while we were there that I came to this realization about how God designed us. That God designed us for community and it’s only in community that we learn how to fully love one another. There we lived with 100 children and 30 plus staff and there were ALWAYS people around. I mean ALWAYS. When there’s always people around, you get to see the best and the worst of each other. There’s no way to hide your ugly when you’re truly in community. Sure, you can keep up appearances for awhile but it’s only a matter of time before the you you try to hide come out.
Sharing life in community with other means that people get to know and love the real you with all you goodness and imperfections and in turn you love them for all of theirs.