“Good News For All The People”—Daily Reflections for Advent 2016
THE TWENTY-SIXTH DAY OF ADVENT, December 22nd
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the Lord to Zion. Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
Recently I stood in the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas and marveled at what I read: “Scientists believe everything we are capable of observing – all the planets, stars, and galaxies – may be only 4% of the entire universe.” I walked away wondering how the God of heaven and earth works on a canvas far more imposing than we can imagine. When the “infinitely incomprehensible holy mystery of God” (Elizabeth Johnson, Quest for the Living God) sets about to heal our broken world, He goes about it in ways beyond the bounds of human understanding. He uses angels, stars, a pregnant virgin, and outcast shepherds.
God dispatches messenger angels to earth with news more marvelous than we can take in. God’s good news comes to us as more than a formula for how I can get saved; God’s good news is about God bringing all things together in Christ Jesus. It’s what the angels sang about, peace on earth and God’s good will towards all.
Theologian N. T. Wright asserts that we have too small a conception of God’s radical good news:
Ironically, many Western churches think of the Christian message as a system for how you do something – namely how you get saved, or how you behave, or some combination of the two. They conceive of faith as a system that is timelessly true, rather than news about an event that happened in history. (“Relevant” Magazine, Issue 76)
In today’s Scripture the prophet Isaiah foresees God acting in history bringing “peace” and “salvation” to the ends of the earth. God’s peace and salvation will reach beyond all the limits that our minds might place on these gifts. All the nations “shall see the salvation of our God.” God’s new creation has begun, as God in Christ Jesus rolled up His sleeve, “bared his holy arm”, in order to fix what is broken, to put it right, to do justice in the world.
Isaiah sees a “messenger” bounding over the mountains bringing the good news: “Your God reigns.” The good news is about Jesus reigning over all idols, powers and forces that enslave His people. Jesus brings an end to the bondage of sin and death, an end to our exile from the peace of God. This will lead us into God’s new world with no more curse, no more sin, no more tears and suffering (Revelation 21:1-5). Nothing will be left hanging; nothing will be left wanting or incomplete. This good news is the best news the world has ever heard!
Our God reigns! The definitive New Testament proclamation of the good news for the nations is: “Jesus is Lord!” The Lord Jesus Christ does reign over all, and through believing in Him we share in His kingdom. “God intends to put the whole world right. So He puts us right in the present through the good news so we can be part of His putting-right project for the world.” (N. T. Wright, “Relevant” Magazine, Issue 76)
Yet, this Advent we look out on a world ravaged by terrorist threats, economic collapse, famine and injustice. We might wonder: “Where do we see God reigning?” “Where do we see that Jesus is Lord?” It takes no more faith for us today than it would have for Jesus’ first followers in a Roman Empire dominated by brute force, hatred and oppression. Nevertheless, Jesus’ followers went confidently out into that world proclaiming the good news of the victory of God’s salvation. When commanded to confess, “Caesar is lord,” they confidently declared, “Jesus is Lord.”
Yes! Our God reigns, and we will reign with Him. He is working on a canvas far bigger, far grander than we can imagine! And one day we will see:
…a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ (Revelation 7:9-10).
- What does it mean for you to look out on today’s world and say: “Our God reigns” and “Jesus is Lord”?
- N. T. Wright says that through the good news we can be part of God’s “putting-right project for the world”. How do you sense God making you a part of His “putting-right project”?