“Good News For All The People”—Daily Reflections for Advent 2016
THE ELEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, December 7th
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
These days I’m hearing it a lot in the mall, in the supermarket, and on the radio. It’s warning me that I’d better watch out, I better not pout or cry – you know why – Santa is coming to town! You probably know the rest of the song:
He’s making a list
And checking it twice
Gonna find out Who’s naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town.
He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
Being duly warned that we’re being watched, the Elf on the Shelf story says that Santa’s getting lots of help in watching our every move. As the story goes, around Thanksgiving time Santa sends out scout elves to be his eyes and ears, monitoring every child’s behavior. Each night the elves fly back to the North Pole to give Santa a full report: who’s been good and who hasn’t. Then, in the dark of early morning, they return to their assigned homes to watch for who’s naughty and nice. Of course, Santa will reward accordingly.
It all gives a new twist to religion that says, “God is watching your every move! Be good and God will reward you! Be good and He will love you.”
I talk to many people who imagine a God something like Santa and his elves watching their every move. God is keeping His list on them. People find Him a hard God to love. He’s a hard God to get close to. Even a hard God to want to please, except that He is coming, and might be bearing gifts for good behavior. Or, you might get a lump of coal!
How very, very different is the real story of Christmas! How very, very different is God revealed to us in Jesus Christ! Loving us more than He loves Himself, God poured out His very life to make us one with Him. “In no other religion do we have a god who stoops, a god who comes down into human history in the most inconceivably personal way. But here in Christianity, we have a God who wants to be united with us and who is prepared to humble Himself and even to suffer to accomplish such a union.” (C. Baxter Kruger, Jesus and the Undoing of Adam)
Jesus enters into our pain and loneliness, our despair, and our longing to be different from whom we are. The Son of God feels our frustration that we can’t get it together, no matter how hard we try.
Today’s Scripture holds one of the Bible’s most mysterious, most inscrutable, magnificent statements. It tells us that God made Jesus to be sin, who knew no sin, so that we might become the very righteousness of God. We cannot fathom, cannot plummet all that this means, but to borrow Karl Barth’s phrase: “He is the Judge judged in our place.” (Church Dogmatics, IV/1) The Son of God becomes the Son of Man to stand in our place and take our judgment as His own. So when the Supreme Judge of Heaven and Earth declares sinners forgiven, who would doubt or contradict Him!
- Why ought we not doubt or contradict God having declared us forgiven?
- Do you agree or disagree with the statement that God loves us more than He loves Himself? What are some reasons for your answer?