(Hebrews 3:1-6; Luke 1:57-80; ) – J G White
11 am, 2nd Sun of Advent, Dec 8, 2019 – UBC Digby
Our children decorated the scene with all our familiar, beloved, Christmas and winter paraphernalia. From many nations and countries these things come, don’t they? And if we travelled the world, we would discover plenty of other Christmas traditions that are not like ours.
Years ago I heard about a Baptist Church in Sydney, NS, that had an annual musical festival – each year the theme was Christmas in a different country. One year might be Ukranian traditions, the next, Christmas music from Czechia, the next year, France.
Our candle lighting this December brings us elements of Indigenous Christianity.
All the cultural traditions are about the same event: Jesus’ birth into this world. They remind us of the variety and scope of our glorious salvation. Our focus on Jesus’ activity can be refreshed by how others across the world follow Him.
Hebrews 3 proclaims: every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. (3:5) We are also told, we are his house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope. (3:6)
We build our Christmas decorations one way, people elsewhere build something different. May the builder of all our traditions be the Spirit of God!
And may the meaning of our great salvation be built by the Source, the Saviour. Listening to saints in other places will instruct us.
For instance, what might believers in the Arab world teach us? Here’s Robert Hamd, ABTS Blog:
From Beirut to Santiago, from Baghdad to Hong Kong, people are taking to the streets to protest. What all these countries have in common is that more people are poorer today than ever.
In Beirut, the protesters are chanting in unison. People are crying out; the system is not working. As I walked through the streets of downtown Beirut, at the heart of the protests, I heard the same chorus from young and old alike: economic injustices, extreme indebtedness, rising medical costs, and a profound distaste for the political elites who gamed the system to profit off the backs of the poor.
Hamd points out that Jesus’ first sermon references Isaiah 61 – proclaiming good news to the poor and the year of the Lord’s favour, which is the Year of Jubilee, from Leviticus 25. This instructs the forgiveness of debts – of money – and the return of land – real estate – to the peasant families. It does not just mean pray for these things; it means do them.
Hamd says: We are perfectly comfortable limiting Jesus to the role of forgiving us of our sins, but we debate the merits of debt jubilee. We believe economic questions are outside the scope of the mission of the church. Calling for economic reform seems too radical. Too uncomfortable. In contrast, we miss Jesus’ wholistic gospel that bids people come, find forgiveness of sins in Him alone, and to work out what “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” means in practice. Following Jesus is taking on a whole different trajectory, in light of the recent protests.
A crisis across the world can show us that the One born in Bethlehem comes to do all that His mother said. All that Zechariah, father of John the Baptizer, said too:
Now we will be saved from our enemies.
…find salvation through forgiveness of…sins…
…light to those who sit in darkness
…guide us into the path of peace.
Let us pray for peace – for shalom – in our world.