Tag Archives: Advent

Whispers of wings?

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you ; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

(Genesis 12.1-3)

A perfect world, created to give a home to humankind, with whom God in his generous loving kindness has desired to share himself – not that he needs us, but his nature overflows with love, and the delight of the trinity in one another is to be shared with us! And in order that we might fully and freely enter into that love, we are made capable of rejecting it. In our folly, we chose to distrust our God and to put ourselves first.

So the beauty is broken, the relationship is fractured, and humanity learns the hard way that getting what we want is not always the good we expect it to be.. The earliest recorded stories of God’s dealings with humanity show that from the very beginning, he had a plan, an incredible scheme of rescue, which will ultimately bring into being the beautiful and satisfying relationship he always desired for us. Traces of it can be followed, like whispered hints of something wonderful yet hidden, through the old testament narrative, until it finds full expression in the gospels in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son and Saviour himself.

The readings at a Christmas carol service will often trace that thread, going right back to the promise given by God as Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, that the seed or offspring of the woman would crush the head of the serpent – a picture of the victory which would ultimately be won by Christ on the cross, defeating forever the power of evil to separate humanity from God.

The steady focus and continuity of God’s purpose is a source of great encouragement to us, because it shows that he is never deflected from his plans, no matter what it may look like from our limited human perspective. Those who were caught up in the days of the Exodus – the long desert journeys, the threat of starvation and armed attack – had no idea that this part of their corporate history as God’s people would stand for the rest of time as a clear example of God’s power to keep his promises. The Midianite refugee who followed her mother-in-law home and found a welcome, and a new life with Boaz, had no idea that her small acts of love and service were part of the plan of God to create a king, David, who would bless the nation.

With hindsight, we can see that there are hints all along the way, as in the covenant promise made to Abram, that all nations would be blessed through him – through his great descendant, Jesus. But for those living the story as it unfolded, there was no such understanding. They were called to obedience and faith in the world as they could see it, without God’s blueprint for redemption and re-creation in front of them.

How much more should we be willing to serve and obey, since we have that plan, revealed in all its fulness in Jesus himself! God, in his mercy and loving-kindness to a helpless and forlorn humanity, has opened the way for us to come home, and has provided all that we need for the journey. The promise which was only whispered at the beginning, is now trumpeted abroad by the angelic heralds, who proclaim at Christ’s birth that here at last is the Saviour, the Anointed and promised one!

Let us rejoice this Christmas in the goodness of our God, in providing from the very beginning, a way for his estranged people to come home. And let us take heart, in the midst of a world which continues to be wracked by the consequences of sin, that we might be confident that God, who began this great work, will bring it to an end. He is faithful, and calls us only to be obedient in fulfilling our role in his plan. We have good news, the best gift anyone could receive, let us eagerly look for ways to share it in love, with our communities.

My own flesh and blood?…

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But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead,

the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

For since death came through a man,

the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

(1 Corinthians 15 v 20-22)

This may seem an odd verse to use at the beginning of the season of Advent, looking towards the birth of Jesus, the coming of God clothed in human flesh. But the incarnation, already stunningly good news in itself as we see God reaching out to us in love, is so much more again!

I have been thinking about what it meant for Jesus to be human – like us, made of flesh and bone, full of emotions and thoughts – and what that means for me. I think that too often I have a degraded view of humankind, forgetting that when God reviewed creation, He declared it all good, and stated that humanity – men and women together – reflect God’s own character. We represent the ecstatic heights of God’s creative act, and I believe that the story revealed in the bible is of how – in spite of our rebellion, our destructive habits and utter inability to redeem ourselves – God is still planning to fulfill his original purposes in creation.

In Genesis, we find God walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day, enjoying their company in the world which had been created to sustain and delight them – in their human form. In the book of Revelation, in the vision which the apostle John was given of the future promised to all God’s children, we find a new earth, where God dwells with his people, and all the barriers caused by our sin and rebellion are gone. All that God ever wanted, was us… Do I really let that sink in often enough? Out of his abundant love, he created a universe and galaxies beyond understanding in order that he might share joy and love with us. And this is still his plan.

When Jesus humbled himself and took on human likeness, it was also the likeness of God, and should remind me continually of the value of each and every human being that every lived. There has never been anyone who did not matter, or was not worth caring about. When Jesus lived for over 30 years on this earth, eating and drinking, walking and wearying just as I do, it reminds me that my Lord and God knows and understands intimately what it is to be human, and nothing about me is unimportant to him. But, when I consider that Jesus came back to life with a human body – albeit with some unprecedented qualities – that is simply electrifying!

My eternal destiny is not in some disembodied state, but in a transformed, glorious, but still human body – because I will inhabit a transformed and glorious but still recognisable earth! God plans to live in uninterrupted fellowship with his beloved children, as He has always desired, and to this end, will make all things new when Christ returns. I freely admit that my mind is far too small to begin to deal with all the implications of this truth – and I would also suggest that if we don’t know all the details, it is because we don’t need the details just now!

Is it not enough to know that when we delight in this world, in our humankind, in all we can do and create, share and enjoy, we are following God’s heart? These are good things to give thanks for, and in which to recognise and celebrate the goodness of God. But we can rejoice even more in the certain hope of a life to come, in a new body – just like Jesus – when all the things which make this world painful will be gone. Then, oh then, what joy awaits, as we revel in a perfect world, in uninterrupted communion with our God, exercising our gifts, pursuing our interests, fulfilling our truest destinies – really living at last.

As we enter into this period of preparation for celebrating the first coming of Jesus as our Saviour, let us also look ahead with eager anticipation to his return in power, when we shall truly be ‘made alive’.

Amen. come, Lord Jesus. (Rev 22 v 20)