Can you imagine living in a land where it was always winter and never Christmas? Like winter, life would be cold and dark, colourless and dull. Existence would take place on a limited landscape, in colours that were drab, mostly grey and black. There would be no parties, no festive meals celebrated with family, no barbeques, and no worship services with triumphant music, no anticipation written on the faces of little children, and no mention of the Christ-child. Celebration would be replaced by the routine, and survival would take precedence over the leisure and luxury of a holiday.
The advent of Jesus changed all this. All because Jesus fulfilled his call from and by God to live a life that demonstrated love, compassion and in a way that showed humanity how to face all that life could throw at them. A pathway that would enable each person to live life fully in all its heights and depths. As strange as it might seem, the will of God or the path way of life that God calls us to, might be the most talked about and yet the most misunderstood concept among us.
Even in our day and time, humankind does horrible things in the name of “the will of God.” Who of us will ever forget the actions of Daesh over the last few years in places like Bamako, Mali, Nigeria and even Paris? We have heard that the terrorists involved in these horrific events sacrificed their lives in the name of Allah as they destroyed the hopes, dreams, and future of many citizens.
In our human history we can find examples in all religions of the violence committed against another group using the thin veneer of religion and claiming God’s will. Military coups are carried out in the name of “the will of God.” Families are murdered in the name of “the will of God.” Cults destroy themselves and others in the name of “the will of God.” Christendom is divided in the name of “the will of God.” All because we want power and things and fail in our call to love and live with compassion for all of God’s creation.
For Jesus, however, the will of God or what God desires us to be was supreme—from the very beginning of his life to the very end. Jesus himself alluded to this truth in his ministry when he said, for I have come not to do my own will, but the will of God who sent me. What God desires of a person is an individual thing to be lived out in a community and involves being someone devoted to fulfil God call to.
In the Jewish faith of Jesus’ time the reason animal sacrifices did not work was most likely to have been that they had become an end in themselves. Those who offered them failed to live out their call and I might add from scripture we hear that God was pleased only when the sacrifices were a demonstration of a broken and contrite heart. The attitude of those who worshiped was God’s main concern. So now in our day we to are warned to be careful that our worship is not mere formality. We dare not fall into the same trap of those long ago who sought to substitute liturgy for a life-changing experience, formality for faith, and silence for service.
At Christmastime, thoughts of family, goodwill, and peace on earth fill our minds and hearts. As we think of the deeper meaning of this time when we remember God’s entry to this earth as a Babe of Bethlehem, the Incarnation, and even the cross—several truths ring out like the bells in our services.
- First, God can do anything and history is shaped not only by the birth of Jesus but also by what he can do in our lives.
- Second, God can change anyone. Through the death of Jesus, God brought us back into a loving relationship and showed us that death and evil can be overcome, bringing life to all who would receive it.
- Third, God can lead us anywhere. God led Jesus and also can lead us if we, like Jesus, are willing to follow God’s pathway and engage in a loving relationship with him.