It’s Christmas Eve, fearless reader! At long last we have come to the end of our beloved (perhaps?) 2017 Burning Bush Communities Advent Blog. While I have enjoyed writing these blogs, I personally am ready for a little break… and my guess is you are too!
We’ve covered a lot of material over the last three weeks on this blog. More than anything, my goal has been to demonstrate that the general hopes of God’s people have not changed since the beginning, and that God continues to work with us to fulfill these hopes. We saw that Christmas was and is such a big deal because it moved these hopes dramatically forward, and even expanded them, after a period of great hardship (the exile and foreign domination). And we learned that the Christmas narratives can actually serve as guidelines for how we can wait in hope and also participate in God’s hope-fulfilling works… Which is very helpful, because ultimately we discovered that our job is (right now!) to live into these same hopes as signs (individually and communally) of what God is doing in our world and will one day bring to completion. And because our goal is to take hold of that hope in the present, it seems fitting to end this series by discussing one way that we can pursue that calling this very day…
“He became what we are that we might become what he is.”
- Athanasius, On Incarnation
Christmas, our celebration of God’s incarnation in Jesus, is not just about God getting us out of our sin and back to “neutral.” God had far greater intentions for us than that. God’s incarnation, as Athanasius (a very significant church father) saw, was ultimately about God making a way for humanity to move into union with God. Jesus became the “God-Man” so that we might become “God-men” and “God-women.” The work that began with the incarnation has a goal of all of us becoming as Jesus was; people who are full of God’s presence and glory. If that statement seems too bold, I challenge you to consider a few verses from the New Testament:
The glory that you (God) have given me (Jesus) I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me…
2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 4:5-7
For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.
2 Peter 1:3-4
His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.
Many blog posts ago, when we discussed Gabriel’s visitation of Mary and his announcement that she would give birth to Jesus (Luke 1:26-38), I suggested that Mary was the paradigm for faithfulness and a perfect example of what God wants to do in each of us. Just as Mary was “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit and Jesus was formed in her (literally), we too are to be filled with the Holy Spirit that Christ might be formed in us. While Christ will not be formed in us as a fetus, he is to be formed in our spirits, our minds, our character, and our lifestyles. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we are to be molded into people who reflect Jesus in all things, with the exception of physical appearance.
Now here’s the thing: Jesus is God incarnate… So if we are to be made Christ-like, then we are to be made God-like. We are supposed to be like God! Which means for starters that God’s character is evident in all that we do. But our hope doesn’t stop there: we are to long for the completion of this process, when we will also be filled with the presence and glory of God. Scripture tells us that this will happen at the resurrection we will be entirely liberated from sin and death and filled with the life of God (this is union with God), as the risen Christ was (1 John 3:2).
While this presence and glory and power of God will not be fully revealed until then, the birth of Christ in our spirits, that is, our transformation into God-like people, is to begin in the present moment. Our lives as followers of Jesus are to be a lives of radical transformation in our hearts, minds, spirits, character and lifestyle. We are not just to be people who believe something about God or Jesus, and who worship God in form, and who try to live decent lives (though those aren’t bad things in themselves). We are to be people who begin to look like God! Today I will not go into the process of that transformation. (It’s long, complex and messy, be assured!) I just want to ask you, faithful reader, one question:
Will you live into the hope of a life filled with God’s presence by allowing Christ to be formed in you this Christmas and beyond?
So this is the final Advent challenge for us: let’s meditate on this question, and then as we celebrate the birth of Christ tomorrow let’s decide whether or not we are ready to live into this hope. My prayer is that all of us, whatever our station in life or background or situation is will answer as Mary did, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
If we follow in her footsteps on this question it would truly make for a Christmas to celebrate!
Well . . . Merry Christmas, fearless reader! Thank you again for taking this journey with me! If our little studies have raised any questions, please feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and may you run with joy into the hopes that God has given us together.