Thursday, 8 December 2016

Joy to the world

Christmas is most definitely here as it's been a few weeks since the launch of the 2016 John Lewis Christmas advert. This features a family dog, enviously watching the neighbourhood's wildlife leaping on a brand new trampoline on Christmas Eve. As well as animals taking centre stage, John Lewis has also cast a black family for the first time, including a six-year-old girl, who is beaten to her trampoline present by Buster – the family dog – on Christmas morning.

Image result for nativity scene silhouette pattern freeIn many ways, this year’s John Lewis advert captures the unusual nature of the true Christmas story found in Scripture. Consider for a moment the various animals which feature in the story of Jesus’ birth. Soon after Jesus has been born, Mary places Jesus in a manger – a feeding trough for animals (this explains why many Christmas cards feature animals gazing at the Christ child). Further, when the angels first proclaim the good news of Jesus’ birth, who is it they announce this to? Shepherds, who were out in the fields caring for their flocks. Lastly, consider the wise men. The Scriptures don’t make clear what they travelled on but, given the arduous journey they would have had to undertake, and given that National Express/Southern Rail didn’t exist back then, it is more than likely that they came either on camels or on horseback. The birth of Jesus Christ unusually features numerous animals. Similarly, it features an unusual family. Joseph and Mary are not wealthy or powerful (unusual given Jesus’ identity as the Son of God). Further, Mary conceives Jesus out of wedlock (perhaps not unusual in our day but it would have been scandalous in 1st century Jewish culture). All this to illustrate that Jesus’ coming into the world is for all people and all situations. Jesus arrival that first Christmas signalled, the beginning of God’s work to redeem and transform not just us human beings, but the entire cosmos. The book of Isaiah speaking of what Jesus’ coming will mean for the world says this:

The wolf will live the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat
The calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them

It may seem impossible now but Christ’s first coming started a transformation that will be seen in full technicolour when He comes again – to judge the living and the dead. A time is coming when animals and all forgiven sinners (i.e. Christians) will live in true peace and abundant joy will be overflow everywhere. This is why Christmas for the Christian is time of real rejoicing; by believing in Jesus we experience real transformation and receive the greatest gift – eternal life. The hymn Joy to the world describes all this well:

He [Jesus] comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found

May we forgiven sinners rejoice in this good news, and share it gladly with all we know and love. Happy Advent

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