“Good News For All The People”—Daily Reflections for Advent 2016
THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, December 4th
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
In poll after poll, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” ranks among people’s favorite Christmas carols. It is based on a poem written in 1739 by Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Remarkably, Charles Wesley wrote this theologically rich poem but a year after his conversion on May 21, 1738. On that day he recorded in his journal: “I now found myself at peace with God…I was in a new heaven and a new earth.” (Arnold Dallimore, A Heart Set Free: The Life of Charles Wesley) Although he was the son of an English clergyman, an ordained minister, and a devout “holiness” seeker, it was not until Wesley was 30 years old that he finally rested his faith in God’s good news. But before that conversion day, when asked if he hoped to be saved, Wesley had replied, “I do…Because I used my best efforts to serve God.” (ibid) Best efforts? – the usual answer of a religionist who has yet to trust in the good news of great joy!
After Wesley rested His faith in the good news, he tried to pack all his newfound peace with God into the first lines of his praise poem:
Hark! The Herald Angels sing,
‘Glory to the new-born King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.’
Just imagine! “God and sinners reconciled!” But that was the wondrous good news of the angels on that first Christmas night! Wesley looked to the words of today’s Scripture for the line about God and sinners reconciled: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” It was to all the world God gave His only Son (John 3:16); it was all the world God reconciled to Himself.
In the writings of Paul it is God who is the reconciler, and the world, the recipient. Remarkably, those who God reconciles to Himself are all of us who are termed His “enemies” (See Romans 5:10-11). That is the essence of reconciliation! The eternal God enters time and space, taking on Himself our humanity on our behalf. He is the Son of God and the Son of Man, divinity and humanity in one person, joining us to God, accomplishing our reconciliation without any “best efforts” on our part.
Swiss theologian Karl Barth explained God’s reconciliation of the world to Himself like this:
We are those whose place has been taken by another, who lives and suffers and acts for them, who for them makes good that which they have spoiled, who – for them, but also without them and even against them – is their salvation. (Church Dogmatics, IV/1)
God and sinners are reconciled, Paul explains, as God is not counting our sins against us. Because of Christ, God has resolved the problem of sin for you and for me – He receives us as we are. “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”
This is good news of great joy for all the people; it is the reporting of a factual event, the objective reality of what God did for everyone whether they believe it or not. This is what has happened. This is actual good news, and not just potentially good news. Let’s put back the good into the good news. God is not mad at us! God is not waiting for us to measure up before reconciling us. God has – past tense – reconciled us to Himself in His Son! “The good news is bigger, better, fuller than you ever imagined.” (N. T. Wright, Simply Good News)
Today’s text closes with the invitation: “be reconciled to God.” God has already accomplished everything needed to reconcile you to Himself! Why not be reconciled to Him! All that remains for you to do is to believe the good news, receiving what God has already done (John 1:12).
- What are your thoughts about your having already been reconciled to God? What are your feelings about your having already been reconciled to God?
- What would you like to say to God today about God having reconciled you to Himself in Christ Jesus?