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CLAIRE: Finding true meaning in Christmas season
The Advent of hope in Isaiah
Unless, of course, you’re a sinner — like me. In which case, God’s perfect justice would be terrifying and inescapable. That’s why on the first Christmas, God didn’t appoint Jesus as judge. Rather, he sent Jesus first as a Redeemer. Through his sacrificial death, and his astounding, glorious resurrection, Jesus made a way for people like you and me to be forgiven our sins and assured of God’s favor when he judges between the nations. When Isaiah’s big vision is finally realized, and God’s Lordship becomes universal, Jesus’ disciples will be covered by the blood of Christ at the passover of God’s justice. who wouldn’t want to have such an amazing gift?
Love is at the end of verse four: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
Finally, when all the world has learned life at the feet of Almighty God, and when his Lordship has been extended over all the earth, hate will utterly and completely disappear. There will no longer be any need for weapons, because the Prince of Peace will be our peace. Swords will become plowshares, spears will become pruning hooks, shields will become roasting pans, and artillery shells will become kegs. We’ll go from wartime to peacetime and enjoy an eternal feast in the presence of our great Master, Judge, Redeemer and King. Imagine the joy of a world in which all our enemies have become friends and family, and hatred is replaced by love.
Which brings us to verse five. We’ve seen Isaiah’s Big Vision and heard his rationale for it in terms of Life, Lordship, and Love. Now it’s time for buy in. As with any vision statement there must be an implementation strategy. Here is Isaiah’s strategy: “Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
Isaiah issues an invitation to all of God’s people to walk in the light of the Lord. What does this mean? For Isaiah and the other Old Testament prophets, everything in the “last days” was yet to come. For people today, living in light of the first Christmas, the Kingdom of Jesus has already begun. It was planted like a mustard seed, and now it’s growing up all around. We live in between the advents, when we can enjoy what God has already done through the cross of Christ, while anticipating what is yet to be when Christ returns in glory.
All the hopes for a wonderful world embedded in this season will only be fully realized in the Kingdom Come. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, Christians enjoy foretastes of God’s promises of Life, Lordship and Love in the present as the vanguard of Isaiah’s big vision. This is God’s early Christmas present to his people. Isaiah invites believers everywhere to unwrap and enjoy this gift, not in order to flaunt their privilege, but rather as a way of inviting others to enjoy God’s radical generosity.
So how will you prepare for Christmas? This season is calling you to join in a frenzy that will wear you out and leave you feeling empty. Don’t do it. There’s a better way. Use this time to slow down and enjoy God, through spiritual disciplines like worship, prayer and Bible reading. Give generously to those in need. If you’re not a Christian, commit your life to Jesus. If you are a Christian, renew your allegiance to him. Either way, bask in the love of God, who gave his Son for you so long ago on the first Christmas, so that you and all the world might be set free of every burden.
Dan Claire is rector of Church of the Resurrection in Washington, DC.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
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