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advent

When God Invades the Seams

Not long after coming to the northwest my wife encouraged me to take up fly fishing again. She’s a good wife. Actually, she thought our son would love this Northwest sport. Plus it would be something we could do together. She was right on both counts. Now he out fishes me on any day. (Proof of such can be found on my Facebook page.) As I was learning to think like a trout someone said, “You’ve got to fish the seams.” That was confusing advice at first, but I found it to be true...

God Sent

Dr. Charles Revis, Executive Minister, ABC of the Northwest

He was sent from God. He was not sent to shed new light on the human condition. He was not sent to be the greatest of all moral examples. He was not sent to point us towards some inner spark of divinity already residing within us. He was sent to redeem! ~ Galatians 4:3-5 NIV

When it comes to the Christmas season I find myself pulled between two poles: The “Splendor of the Season Pole” and the “Bah! Humbug Pole”. When I wrestle with a tangled cord of Christmas lights, half of which are not working, I am pulled towards the “Bah! Humbug Pole." On the other hand, when I am celebrating communion in the midst of flickering candles reflecting on the mystery of the Incarnation I am pulled towards the “Splendor of the Season Pole."

Christmas is a study in contrasts. There is the contrast between cheap tinsel on a tree and the “gold” of wrapped presents underneath. There is the contrast between the crass commercialization of the season and the greater meaning of gift-giving that is the season’s very foundation. There is the contrast between the announcement of peace unto all the world and the ugly reality of war’s constant presence. It’s a season of contrast; a season of dark and light.

Before the first Christmas the world was cloaked in darkness. Evil, death, bondage and decay reigned supreme. But, then light entered the world. Eternal light. That light was not a new philosophy, or self-help program, or even the birth of a new religion. That light was the pre-existent Word, the second person of the Trinity, who donned human flesh and became one of us.

He was sent from God. He was not sent to shed new light on the human condition. He was not sent to be the greatest of all moral examples. He was not sent to point us towards some inner spark of divinity already residing within us. He was sent to redeem!

Redemption language finds its true context in the realm of slavery. In the ancient world slavery was a fact of life for a great number of people. A slave could be freed if someone paid the owner the value of his property. Once the price was paid, the slave could be released into a new life of freedom. Some slaves were set free in this way. Another path to freedom transpired when a wealthy, childless man would adopt a young slave. Then the owner would trade the young man’s slavery for sonship. This resulted in special dignity and family membership to someone who would otherwise be a slave.

God sent Jesus to redeem. He paid the price that releases us from bondage (the condemning law, sin, death, addictions…the list is long). In doing so He made it possible for us to become sons of God. Through Jesus’ redemption we move from slavery into sonship, from bondage to release, from captivity to freedom. Now, that’s a study in contrast! And, it’s exactly what God set in motion when He sent His Son into the world at that first Christmas.

What God did in sending His Son to redeem us should be at the heart of a church’s motivation for ministry. Just as the Son was sent, so too, is the church sent. God sends His sons and daughters into the world proclaiming the Good News of redemption. He sends us into a dark world, just as He sent His Son, to be light and hope and blessing… that eventually the world will be turned from darkness into light, from bondage to freedom. This is our mission. A mission that was first launched in the heart of God and is now working out its full effects until that day when the world is completely and wholly made.

2009 © Dr. Charles Revis, ABC Northwest
[This article is from Dr. Revis’ blog, www.missionnorthwest.blogspot.com]

Advent

Dr. Charles Revis, Executive Minister, ABC of the Northwest

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his
work.”
John 4:34

Advent celebrates the Savior’s entrance into the world to accomplish a mission, a rescue mission that sprang out of the Father’s loving heart. We were people cut off from the Living God and abundant life. Our sins left us condemned and without hope. Our Father would not allow people He had created to remain in such a hopeless state. Love compelled Him to do the unthinkable, to offer up His only begotten Son.

His heart would be broken just as His Son would be broken. The rescue mission was dangerous, difficult and His Son would pay the ultimate price. The mission’s trajectory started at the cradle and ended at a tree. That tree had no lights or tinsel on it, only the red blood of a perfect man.

That pure blood was shed because we had rebelled against the One who launched the very mission that would rescue us. God’s rescue mission to this dark world changed all of that. Through His death and resurrection Jesus transformed our enmity against God into friendship. His death purchased our life. His captivity gave us freedom. His blood washed away our sins. In Christ, we who were once hopelessly lost have now been found! (see John 5:24-25) Uncountable blessings are ours because the Son gladly embraced the mission of His Father. No wonder we give gifts at this time of the year, for we have been given the greatest of gifts and many blessings besides.

But hold on! The mission isn’t over. The mission continues. The first “Missionary” sent the “Rescued Ones” back into the world to continue the work of rescuing. This happened when the disciples were all huddled together in fear behind a locked door. Their leader had been crucified. There was a rumor about that Mary Magdalene had seen him alive again, but they weren’t fully convinced. Instead they were waiting for the dust to settle. Perhaps the Jews were already on their way to stamp them out. To their utter amazement Jesus came and stood among them. As some were trying to figure out how he did this with the door locked firmly in place and while others were shaking in their sandals, He announced peace to them. Translated for today, he said, “Quit sweating it, I’m with you!” He showed them the marks in His hands and His feet from His recent suffering. And, just as joy and renewed hope was welling up in their hearts Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:19-20)

All too often we forget that all followers of Jesus are “under orders.” Every Jesus follower has been sent. Each believer is a commissioned believer. Every true disciple is a missionary. John MacKray said it like this,

“The whole church must become a mobile missionary force, ready for a wilderness life. It is a time for us all to be thinking of campaign tents rather than of cathedrals.”

When we gather together for worship, we gather as the sent ones, who are scattered once again into the world. Huddling together behind locked doors on a Sunday morning fearful of the world beyond belies the church’s purpose. Instead, worship services are more like huddles in the midst of a football game. It’s a brief timeout to reconnect, look to the director, coordinate the next play, pick up the ball and move down the field a few more yards, all for the glory of God. Imagine how frustrating for a coach if the only play the team ran was the huddle. On the other hand, imagine how fulfilling, thrilling and joyful when the team touches the life of a broken, starving, disillusioned, despondent or homeless person with God's love. Or, the team reaching yet another person who otherwise was headed to an eternity separated from God.

The Advent season is an auspicious time for Jesus followers to be on mission. Whether you are working alone or in a team, this is a season to be aware that during Advent people far from God are especially open to God’s love. Some will respond to an invitation to attend a worship service or candlelight communion. Others will join you when you go to feed the homeless or give toys to disadvantaged children. Or, how about something as simple as inviting some “pre-Christian” friends over for a meal and conversation?

Christmas offers us a time to reflect on the mystery of a rescuing Father who loved us so much He gave His only begotten Son. Such reflection will cause us to not only praise God for His great gift in Jesus, but it will motivate us to go forth and serve in obedience, for the world continues to be at the center of God’s rescuing heart. May your heart be warmed with the love and grace of Jesus throughout this Advent season.

Originally published December 2007 © Dr. Charles Revis, ABC Northwest