Advent Reading Day 28 – The Day of Hope is here.

“15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1

Here we are…Christmas Day.   What an amazing day to celebrate with family and to reflect on Jesus’ coming.  We’ve made it to this highly anticipated morning…and I’d love to ask, “What has changed for you this Christmas season?  How has Jesus’ coming changed everything for you this year?  How has He expanded your understanding of His Kingdom and His Mission as you prepare to sit around your tree this morning and celebrate with your family – feasting on all that He is, all He has given and all He has done?

I find that it is in these moments of conflicting interests that we so often end up finding the challenge of Jesus to die to ourselves, to take up His Kingdom mission and to follow Him radically with our all.  I find Christmas morning to be one of those times filled with conflicting moments – irony beyond irony.  We sit around so much that is artificial and consumeristic while celebrating The One who brings life and calls us to lay down our lives.  It can provide a moment filled with irony…but one that can call us deeper into His love and His purposes.

We also had one of those moments about a week ago in a restaurant which has left me reflective and pondering what message God wants to get into my heart as well as what message from His heart I continue to try to block out.

About a week ago we went to a restaurant in Addis named “Chicken Hut.”  One would swear that you were in The U.S..  Employees were wearing fast food uniforms complete with baseball cap.  The fries came in a little cardboard fry holder complete with Chicken Hut logo.  The chicken sandwiches were the best I’ve had in over a year and came wrapped in Fast Food paper complete with logo.  The Cokes were from a fountain rather than a bottle.  And, of course in typical Muzak American style there was Pop music coming through the speaker systems.   It was a conflicting event to have just left Kore and come to the Bole area and have entered into an American oasis.  With all of that said, we had a great time and probably will go back.

What was most conflicting however was the song playing over the loudspeakers as we walked in.  “Do They Know Its Christmas” was the song that was playing.   That song was written in 1984 as a fund raising effort for famine ravaged Ethiopia…and now here we were in a wealthy district of Ethiopia eating overpriced fast food.  Conflicting, indeed.   At the time  the song was written, it reached the top of the charts over night.   The recording included Sting, Bono, Boy George, George Michael, Adam Clayton, Phil Collins, Paul McCartney, Kool & The Gang, Duran Duran and dozens of others 80’s stars, but also was recently rated the 74th worst song in history by AOL Music and writer Bob Geldof says that he regrets having written it.  No matter what, to hear the song in Ethiopia still causes a bit of a conflict in me.  The sheer amount of extravagance in a world where there still is great need stirs a dissonance and a discontent within my heart and mind.   Yet,  I think the question of “Do They Know Its Christmas” goes deeper for me.

At the end of the day, the full question is not so much whether there is an equal sharing of stuff on Christmas morning.  The full question is not of whether there are people without anything to eat in Addis Ababa which I have to pass in order to get to Chicken Hut to eat what I want that resembles what I like to eat 8,000 miles away.  The full question is whether the full message of Christmas will penetrate my heart and also the heart of that person I just passed.  It is in that place that true transformation can occur for rich and poor alike.   As we sit on Christmas morning it is this message that will bring true transformation to me, to the systems around me and to the whole world.  What is this message?

I think it is best summed up in Colossians 1

“15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

I think this is the message of Jesus’ coming which has the power to transform me as well as those around me and the entire world.  In this passage is revealed Jesus’ power to transform the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong, governments and systems.   In this passage we are reminded that the weak helpless little baby whom we worship on Christmas morning and whom leaves us with a little, “Oh how cute” in our spirits is also the One through Whom all things have been created, The One who defeated the enemy,  and Who rules over all thrones, powers, rulers and authorities.  He is the One who holds all things together.   He is the One in Whom the fullness of God dwells and He is the One who reconciles to Himself all things.

It is in this message of the coming of Jesus that true hope dwells.   It is in The One who Rules coming that we find the true meaning of Christmas.  It is in this message that I am challenged to consider whether I really know its Christmas.  The One Who rules coming to reconcile me to Himself, to His creation (including the systems of this world), to myself and to those around me – this is the message worth pondering for each of us and our world.   Christmas then becomes giving myself over to The One who rules in order to make His rule known in this moment.  This is true hope.  This is the hope that breaks us out of our apathy to action.  This is the hope that breaks us out of our despair to know true forgiveness and wholeness.  This is the hope that rescues us from death and leads us to life – here and now as well as forever.  This is the message that rescues the rich from poverty of spirit and the poor from poverty of possession.   This is the message of Christmas for our world.  This is the message of hope for our world.

Today, may we embrace His Hope – The True Hope found in His coming.  May we practice worship of the One who rules, and be deeply transformed by His message of Reconciliation to Himself, to creation, to ourselves and to others.   And may that hope open up the way for Jesus to come in and truly change everything.

Merry Christmas!

Prayer:  Jesus, thank you for this day in which we celebrate your birthday.  Today we honor You.  We turn our attention to You as The One who Rules All and whom changes everything.  I pray that today you would help us to keep our eyes on You as we join in the busyness of celebration.  Help us to see glimpses of Your Rule and Reign throughout this day…and transform us by Your reconciling power.  We worship You, O King of All!  Amen.

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