And On Earth Peace

a preview

The setting is history,

          History fulfilled – the long history of Israel from Abraham through Moses, David, Solomon, builder of the first Temple, and the prophets, right down to the Temple recently rebuilt by King Herod. That is the history into which Jesus would be born, into the Jewish world of his time, to be God’s answer to their need.  Like ours, it was a history of many contradictions, and perhaps the most striking of all was this, that they who had learnt to worship God, transcendent, holy and good, worshipped him in the Temple built by a cruel and selfish tyrant, whose power came from collaboration with the brute force of the Roman Empire.  Herod had murdered two of his own sons. But these days when the world’s Kyrios was born are identified in the reckoning of Luke’s gospel as the days of Herod, King of Judea, and even the mighty deeds of God, who creates and dates the universe, are dated by the ruler the Romans had chosen for Jerusalem.

and, of course, the carols that remember it.

          So, gentlemen, God rest you merry, for here is good news for you and for all the people. In the little town of Bethlehem, in David’s royal city, a son is born to us and a child is given to us, and if he is only a little body asleep, exhausted by the struggles of birth, or a writhing, screaming, red-faced demand for nourishment, be not dismayed, for here, in the mercy and the wisdom of God, is our Lord and Saviour. Here in a silent and holy night the Messiah is born of Miriam. In the darkened houses of Bethlehem there dawns the everlasting light of God’s salvation.  The hopes and fears of all the years are met in this place tonight.

Jesus' teaching

          Generosity of mind and soul and property, giving as the characteristic of our lives: that is what makes us like God, children of God, as we are called to be. It’s not a law but an offer.  It comes as teaching to be learnt, not an edict to be endured. To trust our teacher, learning to live like this, will be our salvation.  It’s as we listen and do that we learn, and listening, doing and learning are the life of faith.

changes the world radically,

          Our alienation from God and from the future is ended.  Whatever the disobedience, ignorance, selfishness, whatever the history that left us paralysed, unable to move a limb to help ourselves, unable to step out with confidence before the world, to enter the century at a run instead of lying down to take whatever it dumps on us, whatever the causes of our helpless passivity – but we know it is our sins that crippled us – it is all, and completely, forgiven. The authority of God in Jesus declares, “Your sins are forgiven.”
          And in that authority, we may get up, stand up and face the benighted nations. We are not tied to the evil systems we created, as if there were now no other option. We are not helplessly waiting for some other intervention of God before we can gainsay the world. The day of salvation has dawned, and we may learn to live not in the way a twisted world dictates but in the light of God. The revolution has begun, not with the seizing of power but with the sidelining of power itself, in the energy of a program inspired by God. The challenge for us in this 21st century is to confront wealth and power, and the cynicism or despair that have so often retreated before them, as seriously as the seventy-two confronted the demons afflicting their people. Sent by the Kyrios as those disciples were, we will realise the vision in this his 21st century.

and once again we have a future.

          We are children of God. We stand on the edge of unbounded mystery lit with unshadowed light. Godself draws near to us, no longer veiled to sight in the Temple’s inner sanctum, no longer mediated by angels, but in God’s own Son, the one who has received God’s Spirit to rule in God’s name. The window onto the utter mystery of God is Jesus active in this human world and its history, the Kingdom Child attested by the Spirit, under whose teaching and government the world of Israel and of all humanity is finding its future.