Third Sunday of Advent
17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,* not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
II Corinthians 5:17-21
It happened late one night as drowsy shepherds watched their sheep and poked wearily at the dying embers of their fire. Suddenly overheard, the night sky shone brighter than the noonday sun! Radiant, holy angels winged earthward from the highest glory and manifested before the speechless shepherds. Then the lead angel heralded the message entrusted him by God: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.”
Dispatched from heaven’s Throne Room the angels came bearing stunning Good News for all. They came with Good News not just for the good people, nor just for the holy and just, but Good News even for outcaste shepherds. The angel had been clear and authoritative – it was Good News for all people! God was leaving no one out, no one was excluded. Everyone was a winner! The Savior of the world had been born for all!
The angel’s proclamation of Good News is picked up and amplified in today’s text, as the Apostle Paul joins in declaring the wideness and scope of God’s Good News: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.” It was the world that God was reconciling to himself that Christmas night! Like the Father in Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son, God was welcoming home all his lost children.
The Apostle Paul makes clear that it is God who took the initiative in our reconciliation. In one wide, extravagant, inclusive sweep of grace, God reached out to all, “not counting their trespasses against them.” All the wrong we’ve ever done, and all the good we’ve left undone, was taken up by Christ! Holy angels and apostles announce the Good News “for all the people.´
But how is such staggering, incredible Good News possible? How is it that a holy and righteous God has reconciled not just good people but has reconciled the world to himself? The Apostle Paul answers in bold and stunning words: “God made Christ who knew no sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
It was just as the angel of the Lord had instructed Joseph at Christ’s birth, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Here is the Good News of great joy for everyone! No one excluded! Jesus saves us from our sins! He takes them as his own.
What all the religions of the world dream of, and every heart longs for, is brought to us in Christ – peace with God. No wonder the angels went away that night rejoicing, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth!”
The old carol of Christmas invites all to join in the angels’ joyous celebration:
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies.
With the angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Let your heart be at peace!
Read, Reflect, Respond, and Rest with today’s scripture text,
II Corinthians 5:17-21, and today’s devotional.
Today’s Moments of Diaphany
- an answer to prayer
- evidence of his love and care
- evidence of his creative power and wisdom
- his help to do his work