“Good News For All The People”—Daily Reflections for Advent 2016
THE TWELFTH DAY OF ADVENT, December 8th
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
As a pastor I give close attention to church signs as I drive around the city. At Christmas I am eager to see church signs saying, “Children’s Living Nativity”, “Handel’s Messiah”, and “Midnight Candlelight Service”. But occasionally I see signs with the following messages: “Afraid of burning? Apply Son-Screen”, and “How will you spend eternity: Smoking or Non-Smoking?” Some might think the signs witty, and they do succeed in getting attention. But when I see them I remember that you can’t frighten people into love.
Do we really imagine that we can frighten people into a relationship with God? Are intimacy and union built on fear? Didn’t the Christmas angel seek to console the shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). And don’t we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)!
In today’s Scripture, rather than frightening people to come to God, we are asked to proclaim what God has put right: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” Then we read that with this radically good news God is “entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” God has commissioned you and me to be His personal representatives, entrusting to us the good news of great joy for all the people. “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.”
Jesus was tough on the legalists, the gate-keepers of religion, who were driving people from the Father by preaching rules: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them” (Matthew 23:13). But Jesus threw wide open the gates, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand. And for that, Jesus’ enemies branded Him “a friend of sinners” (Matthew 11:19), a title that Jesus was happy to wear!
Knowing that God has reconciled the world to Himself, not counting our sins against us, helps us to see people in a new way. We see them as loved and forgiven by God! Even the cranky man down the street who no one can stand, or the serial murderer or drug dealer; we see them as God sees them, loved and reconciled to Him. The heavenly Father longs for them to hear the good news, and to accept His acceptance of them.
Before the creation of the world God purposed to include us in the loving communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:4-5). We don’t have to do a thing to get God to love us. He has loved us eternally! The Son of God has come and found us so that He might share Himself, all He is and has with us! This is good news of great joy for all the people!
- Do you agree or disagree with Thomas Erskine’s statement that you can’t frighten people into love? Explain.
- How might the good news of great joy for everyone help you to see people in a new way?