Despite the continuing developments of science and technology, we are made aware daily of the inability of men and woman to live at peace with one another. At every level of society, there is narcissism and greed, hatred and corruption haunting the human experience. Alienation is a word that rightly describes our plight. So, what’s life all about?

It is not insignificant that in his Letter to the Colossians Paul the Apostle expresses the human dilemma this way: And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds… (1:21). Estranged or alienated speaks not just of our outward behaviour, but of what we are like deep within – until the grace of God changes us. In our natural state the desires of our hearts are at odds with a genuine love for God and consequently our lifestyle is flawed.

When we think about it God could have written humanity off as a fiasco. He could have decided to start afresh – as indeed, he told Moses he would (Numbers 14:11f). But that would have been an admission of defeat on God’s part. It would have meant that in some measure God couldn’t allow evil because he knew he couldn’t defeat it.

But no, the Bible tells us that from the very beginning of time, God was determined to beat it. He determined on an infinitely more costly strategy than one of simply writing us off. He wouldn’t abandon an evil and ungrateful humanity that rejected him. He would reach across the divide and rescue it from the consequences of its own folly. He would step in personally and address the penalty his righteous character required. In a word he would do everything needed to reconcile the world to himself. Importantly, he would destroy the hostility without destroying the enemy. He would make peace.

Paul tells us, in very beautiful words, what this meant: … through him (Jesus Christ) God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross (1:20).

Suppose someone very close to you, a wife or husband, or another family member, profoundly hurts you. They trample over your feelings; they repay all your kindness and genuine interest in them with hatred. But a day comes when they are in some kind of deep trouble. If you don’t step in to help them they’re going to perish. What do you do? You could tell them to go to hell.

But supposing when you consult your feelings, you find within your heart a love for them, a love that wants to see them restored to your family circle. You know you need to find within yourself the resources to absorb the pain and righteous anger that boils up within you at the very sight of them, so that you can stretch out your hand and help them.

I find this to be a picture that helps me understand what Paul is saying here, when he says that God was reconciling us to himself through the blood of the cross. Because Jesus and God are one, we see that through the cross of Christ God found the perfect way through which he can absorb within himself the pain and the anger, that are rightly within him, when he looks at people like us who have rejected him.

On the cross of Christ we find the passionate collision of pain and fury, of love and mercy.

And the outcome of this costly sacrifice? … So as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him… (Colossians 1:22b).

Christ’s death on the cross laid the foundation and provided the means for God’s forgiveness. But we await a final day when we will be truly holy, without blemish, and free from accusation. And this, as Paul continues, will only happen provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard,… (1:23).

What’s more God plans to use that reconciled human race to populate a reconciled universe. For the reconciliation Jesus has achieved goes far beyond men and women. It will embrace the whole of the cosmos. One day he is going to make a new heaven and a new earth where truth and goodness will reign.

And who will be there, as Lord of that reconciled world?  Jesus! Jesus, risen from the dead.  Jesus glorified in heaven. The name Jesus will resound with joy throughout the universe.

No one who understands these things can ever say that any other name is equal to the name of Jesus. He alone has provided for our rescue from our narcissism and rebelliousness against God. No one else has scars on their hands. No one else has conquered the grave. No one else has provided the means of a perfect, everlasting peace.

This is the central theme of the New Testament. It is at the heart of the season of Advent. It is in the Lord Jesus Christ that we discover what life is all about.

The question is whether you and I will acknowledge Jesus’ supremacy, willingly recognizing him, and turning to him as the one true Lord of heaven and earth. And in turning to him as the Lord, will you acknowledge that he alone is sufficient to present you before God, holy, without blemish, and freed from all accusation on the day of the Advent of the Christ – the return of king? Are you prepared for that day? Do you really look forward to it?

A Prayer – for the Third Sunday in Advent: Almighty God, we pray that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered through your guidance that your church may joyfully serve you in all godly quietness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

© John G. Mason

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