Scripture tells us that God’s ways are not our ways and neither is God’s freedom our freedom.
We look at the world and we see the injustice, the wrongs committed, human dignity is denied, nations threaten other nations, fear is pervasive and confusion seems to abound. We profess that God will certainly answer all of this but, so often, we then just assume that God will answer it as we would – through a show of power, force and dominance!
We are not alone in this, it has been the human fallback since the beginning – a sad result of our fall from the Garden of Eden. The people of Israel also held this. Their land was occupied by the world’s superpower, their kingdom was destroyed, their culture and religion was at odds with all of their neighbors yet, the idea of a messiah began to grow in the heart and hope of Israel, but they easily assumed that it would be a strongarm messiah who would vanquish the Romans, overcome all foes and restore Israel as the nation above all nations!
How little we understand the freedom of God.
God would send the messiah but simply and quietly – not leading an army but rather feeding the poor, healing the sick and preaching the Kingdom. The political oppression of Israel and the tumult among the nations was just the backdrop to the true story of God’s messiah and the oppression he came to confront and overcome – the oppression of sin and evil rooted deep in the human heart.
John the Baptist understood something of the freedom of God, so when he was questioned about his identity and the hope of the messiah, he was able to respond, “…there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” The messiah is not recognized because God’s freedom is not understood. God does not need the force of the world’s power nor is God bound by the terms of the world in accomplishing his will. God’s word is enough. God’s Spirit has been given.
The single most important event in human history (outside of creation itself) is accomplished by Jesus in his death and resurrection in a small part of a vast empire and the powers of the world barely noticed it. God’s freedom is shown in this! Now, in Christ – as adopted sons and daughters – we also have been given this freedom and this hope.
Here is a simple question to reflect upon that can lead us, I believe, into a little deeper awareness of the freedom of God and now our freedom as his children. The question often asked at this time of year is “How am I, how are we, going to celebrate Christmas?” But here is a different question, “How am I, how are we, going to give Christmas?” Christmas is the celebration of God’s light and God’s freedom breaking into our world! How can I give that light? How can I live that freedom? It is an appropriate question to reflect upon on this third Sunday of Advent when we rejoice in the coming of Christ! Christ came that we might have life and that we might live the life we receive for others! Christ invites us into the very freedom of God.
How am I, how are we, going to give Christmas and learn (in a deeper way) the freedom of God?