Thinking About Advent: Kevin H
We look forward to the Coming of Christ as the Advent season is just about upon us. In anticipation of that, we reflect upon how Christ did come – probably so very different from how it would have happened than if it was up to you or I.
If we were in charge, Jesus would have come in great power and fanfare, I mean, heck, He is the all-powerful, all-knowing God, descending upon His own creation that He created from nothing, after all. He certainly would not have come as a baby, but rather in some kind of glorious, fully grown body. He would have come with guns smoking and mowed down the bad guys and elevated the righteous people (that would be us and our holy companions) to be in charge under Him. There would be no more terrorists or murderers or people who drive too slow in the left lane, as they would all be locked up or expunged in some fashion. Everybody would know without a doubt that Jesus was ruler over all and we were his favored lieutenants.
Yet of course, we know that isn’t at all how Jesus came. Rather, He came in very humble, if not humiliating means. He came as an infant, totally vulnerable and completely reliant on others to take care of Him. He came through people of no particular cultural or political significance, the first people to be told of His coming were of lowly stature, and His family had to soon flee as refugees to a foreign land. He grew up and experienced all of human earthly life, including the physical, emotional, and psychological pains and struggles that accompanies it. Ultimately, He suffered a completely unjustified and altogether excruciating death, the extent of which we will probably never fully understand the grave nature of what all the bearing of our sins on the cross encompassed.
While Jesus’ earthly lineage included kings, the father of the Jews, and most probably others of societal importance, it also includes some pretty messed up people (just like us), including even the kings. I’m reminded of this as my church just started a new sermon series leading up to Christmas that is focusing on the mothers of Jesus, those who are named in Matthew’s genealogy. The first one was Tamar, as many of you know was a Gentile woman who was taken by Judah to be the wife of his eldest son. She was then done dirty by Judah and multiple of his sons, after which she turned around and disguised herself as a prostitute, slept with her father-in-law, Judah, resulting in her pregnancy and offspring that would ultimately lead to Jesus, many generations later….. fun stuff. Jesus most definitely did not come from a clean and pristine line – that’s not the way we would have done it.
So the question for the church today, and I ask specifically of the conservative American church, is are we reflecting not only the way Jesus came, but also the way He lived out His life, in the way we carry out our lives?
Of course, we are human and we will sin and we will never nearly perfectly reflect Jesus. Nevertheless, there are many, many good things we do – from helping the poor and needy, to sacrificially serving others, to being faithful to our families – that do reflect the love, mercy, and humility of Jesus.
Yet at the same time, it is no secret that the conservative American church has also developed a reputation that is not so flattering, most especially over these last several years. Part of the reason for this reputation can be blamed on media and other segments of society that exaggerate and misrepresent conservative Christianity and seek to assign derogatory labels to us. However, I venture to say that the much larger blame for our uncomplimentary reputation lays at our own feet.
The creator and Master of the Universe came to His own creation by having Himself born in a feed trough to peasant parents and claiming no earthly power or privileges, yet we often assert, that our nation was formed Christian, by Christians, and that we need to make sure that Christianity keeps its privileged status and position in our nation.
Jesus said that His disciples will not fight to protect Him because His Kingdom is not of this world, but we keep picking up swords in cultural and political battles to win wordly power for the cause of Christ.
Jesus said, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness,” yet we have so often first sought the Kingdom of America and the power available within it, by whatever means necessary, so that we can then install and enforce those things we see as righteous.
Jesus said, “Whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done to me,” but we love to derisively lump together so many of the “least of these” as “living off the government” or “infestations of illegals” who are only a burden or threat to us.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8
As we enter into Advent, we are given another opportunity to reflect on Jesus and who He is and how He came and how He lived His life. May doing so spur us to more greatly have the same mindset of Christ – a mindset that does not seek to gain or use one’s power to control, coerce, or lord it over others, but rather seeks to humbly and sacrificially serve God and others.