“Good News For All The People”—Daily Reflections for Advent 2016
THE NINTH DAY OF ADVENT, December 5th
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
This is a time of year for gift exchanges in families, schools, Bible studies, the work place…you name it. People will be getting together and giving a gift and receiving one in return. A good way to think about Christmas is to think of it as God’s Grand Gift Exchange; Christ gives to us His righteousness and perfect standing with God, and we give to Him our sin.
God’s Grand Gift Exchange is at the heart of today’s Scripture: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” The Greek word translated “was reconciling” means to exchange one thing for another. It was used for exchanging one country’s coin for another, or, people exchanging hostility for a friendly relationship. Christmas is about God coming to exchange His grace and peace for our “missing the mark” and rebelling against Him.
It is important to note that the verb “was reconciling” is in the passive voice, emphasizing that it is not we who reconcile ourselves to God, but God who reconciles us to Him. We are, as it were, passive in God’s Grand Gift Exchange; we are the objects of His reconciliation. In Scripture it is always God who is the reconciler, and sinners the reconciled. God has exchanged our relationship with Him from one of an enemy to one of His beloved children. All that remains for us to do is to receive it. In Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians, he gives us another look at God taking the initiative to reconcile us to Him:
“But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us… For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:8, 10).
Martin Luther loved to think, write about, and preach the good news of God’s Grand Exchange:
That is the mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied Himself of His righteousness that He might clothe us with it, and fill us with it. (Commentary on the Psalms)
On that first Christmas the Son of God came to deal with sin (sin nature) and with sins (things we do) in order to make us one with God. While we must take sin seriously, we must take God’s grace even more seriously. Reformed theologian Cornelius Plantinga describes how God’s grace is greater than our sin:
Human sin is stubborn, but not as stubborn as the grace of God and not half so persistent, not half so ready to suffer to win its way….To concentrate on our rebellion, defection, and folly—to say to the world “I have some bad news and I have some bad news” – is to forget that the center of the Christian religion is not our sin but our Savior. (Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be)
There is always more grace in God than there is sin in us. This is the good news of great joy for all the people!
- What might it mean for you to take God’s grace more seriously than you take your sin?
- Luther said “we rejoice and glory in His [Christ’s] righteousness.” What would that mean for you today?