Celebrating the season of Advent is essential because we celebrate the coming of Christ. Our celebrating is the right response precisely because we can now have peace on earth and goodwill towards all men!
Tragically, we live in a day and age when the gospel of Jesus Christ is not about peace on earth, but about a private peace attached to the promise of an escape hatch out of this world altogether.
In that picture, angels cease to be the messengers who come to announce that heaven is taking over the running of earth, and instead what we see on a thousand calendars and Christmas cards: is hoping for an escapist spirituality which leaves the empires of the world free to do their own thing.
But that misses the whole point of Christmas. Christmas is about God acting in the real world, carrying forward the work of the kingdom that was launched at the very first Christmas.
Dr. N.T. Wright put it this way: “We are so used to hearing about it – indeed, most of us never use the word ‘manger’ in any other context – that we often forget the point. The shepherds in the field on the night of Christ’s birth were told something by Angels or thought they were told something that on the surface was quite ridiculous: that God’s Messiah, God’s only Son, had just been born and not only that it took place just up the road. Now how on earth are you supposed to believe that? But they went, and they saw, and they believed, and they worshipped.”
The God of Peace did not shun this real world but came into the very thick of it, hugging unwanted children, forgiving prostitutes, dining with the lowest of society, getting his hands dirty in acts of mercy, blessing, and love so real and so deep . Christmas is about the living God claiming the world of space, time, and matter as his own. That is why we – who celebrate Advent and Christmas – do so with material things: water in baptism and bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper, candles and garland, processions and banners and, of course, music! The living and healing God of Christmas has reclaimed all the materials of His creation.
So where do we start? We start by remembering the story of the shepherds and the manger that began not when the Angels arrived singing their praises but when the prophets of old spoke of this coming savior…
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.” ‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.’ ~ Jeremiah 33:14-16
The following song, O Holy Night, is one of the most beautiful of all the Christmas Carols and captures beautifully what the Angels told the Shepherds…and remind us every time we hear this song. This particular rendition is offered by Josh Groban. Enjoy…