Passover is the most important Christian festival of the Christian year. But Christmas itself has now outstripped Passover in popular culture as the real celebration of the year – a move contrary to the New Testament’s emphasis. Jesus’ death on the cross on Passover is the fulfilment of the manger. The shadow of the cross falls over the manger and the cross was made out of the wood of Jesus’ manger. Passover is the moment when God’s new world started growing like green grass through the thick concrete of death, evil and injustice (N.T. Wright).
All languages about the future is an effort to set up signposts pointing into a foggy future. We see through a glass darkly, says Paul, as we peer towards the future. But with the first Christmas (4 BC) God came forward in Jesus in the first person, out of the fog or mist of God’s space. Jesus stepped out of the metaphysical world of God’s space to meet us and reveal God’s blueprint for His creation.
Therefore, the birth of Jesus is the cradle of Christian hope for this world. It is the coming of God’s kingdom here on earth. The first Christmas morning is the place where the Christian’s hope is born – the fulfilment of the Passover story. It is the bold confidence of God’s presence and power that are breaking into our world today and the beginning of a whole new creation. And God used Mary and Joseph and other human beings to play a striking role in the beginning of this new creation of God.
And how do we define the hope of Christmas?
- It is to realise that a different worldview, the supernatural world of God, is a reality. That is the New Testament definition of hope.
- Hope is not only what lies ahead. It is about the Kingdom of God breaking through into our present-day realities and spilling over into the world today.
- Hope is not a postmodern destiny, nor an escape from this world into another one, but God’s sovereign rule coming on earth as it is in heaven today. That is how Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6:10: ..Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (A magnificent prayer that we can pray!)
- This world is still God’s world and He loves His world (John 3:16). But this world must be transformed into God’s new world ..on earth as it is in heaven. This is the message of Christmas.
- This shift of a different worldview will enable us to transform the world into God’s new world in which He became a human being.
Most people in the Biblical world saw heaven and earth as overlapping and interlocking spheres of reality. They believed that God’s world could touch our world at any time. They believed that God is closer than we sometimes recognise.
That is the message of Christmas 2014. God wants his people to experience hope and to share it with the world: the hope that has world-transforming power and which God revealed the first Christmas morning. It is more than just anticipation of what God will do in future. The new heaven is not only a future destiny but also a hidden dimension of our ordinary lives. And like Joseph and Mary, God wants to use you!
And what can you and your church do to the pain, loss and hopelessness that saturate our world? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see beyond the physical, to begin perceiving through the eyes of Jesus. And as you see and feel the reality of what so many people face each day, pray for the Kingdom of God to start growing like green grass through the thick concrete of death, evil and injustice in these places and in these lives. Think of one action of hope your group can take during this Advent to bring heaven to earth right in your community.
A merry Christmas.