ENGAGE Isaiah 9.6-7
With-us One of the great messages of Christmas is that God is not aloof from His creation, that God has always been close to us, it’s us who were in the distance and needed to be brought close. So God had the prophets alert us to a coming time when He would draw us close to Himself, and that it would come in a way we wouldn’t expect, and yet with results that all human hearts cry out for.
The vision One is to be born showing that he has God’s authority and God’s passion, majestic, authoritative. Bringing an era of things being done God’s way, consistent with God’s character. Peace, justice, righteousness; the eternal Kingdom of God being set up among ordinary humans – starting with a little child. Behind all of this is an inherent promise of relationship with God in which we get caught up in his peace and justice.
The promise A young woman has a visit from a startling messenger from God’s throne room. She’s not particularly special, and her home town is even less impressive and yet she is singled out in a way that bombards her with a million questions. “Why is an angel coming to me? favoured? me? what does he want? how is the Lord “with” me, and where is He? I’m so scared I can’t think straight!” Shocking in all as that is, the messenger’s next words, are almost terrifying – she’s going to have a baby! “O Joseph is NOT going to like this!” But a King, a Saviour, a great One bringing in an eternal Kingdom. “I know how that happens, and that has not happened – Joseph would never do that until we’re married.”
The agent is the Holy Spirit and He will do God’s creative work in Mary’s womb to bring about the conception of this remarkable child – God’s Son, God’s eternal Kingly Deliverer.
To Mary’s questions the angel says that if God can do what He did for Elizabeth and Zechariah, He can do this too, because nothing’s impossible for God.
The response The vision and the promise are both truly wonderful, but even more wonderful is Mary’s response, her resounding “yes!” Yes to being the vessel by which God becomes flesh, becomes human. The promise inherent in the invitation reached Mary’s heart.
Similarly God calls us to say yes to His invitation to engage with Him in grace and love for us. To follow Him and join His purpose in the world. And then He invites us to engage with one another in the living body of Christ, here in our place and time; and finally God invites us to engage with those in need of His grace and love that we encounter in our seemingly mundane everyday worlds.
The resource Interestingly it’s the same agency that lit the spark of new life in Mary’s womb, that enables and equips us to do all that God has called us for. I mean the Holy Spirit, God in His living Presence in all places and at all times, but especially in us as we engage with Him. As I was saying last week, to be a Christian and to live a truly Christian life we are completely dependent upon the indwelling grace and authority of the Holy Spirit, the Creator Spirit, the Spirit of truth. We are the community by which the promised wisdom, peace and authority of God is brought to engagement with the world, in our particular mission-field and many beyond. If Christmas is about gifts, it is about God’s astonishing gift of Himself to us, and with that, our gift to the world of His love, grace and power made flesh. Real hands and feet, thoughtful eyes and ears, reaching out in the power of God, as His hands and feet, His eyes and ears, His loving embrace in our acts of kindness and words of gentle witness. We become the visible presence of God’s Kingdom, the realising of His wise and peaceful rule and reign right here in Forrest Hill and all over the North Shore.
So is it to be God wrapped and imprisoned in a straw-strewn feed box, trapped in our nostalgic mists and air of good feelings, or is He to be unleashed in the midst of church and out into the communities and neighbourhoods that surround us? Is He to be allowed to give bodily expression to His love, power, peace through you and your talents? Is His fire going to escape the limits of our reticence to warm the cold and stony hearts of our those around us?