Can you identify these images from the news of the last few days? (Step through the images as people identify them. Stop on Syrian one)
What do we see there? Pain, sorrow, death, evil.
When God created the world, He declared it to be very good. There were no disastrous weather events; no deaths by human hands and no deaths at the hands of nature – no deaths at all, no mental illness, no crime, no illness and no injury and no weakness brought about by aging. There were no political botch-ups. There was no shortage of food, no poverty, no greed, no violence… we could go on. That was God’s world and that world once existed.
God’s original creation was perfect. What would our photos be like if we lived in a perfect world. Every photo would show a beautiful environment, and perfect harmony, fun, laughter, joy, peace love.
Of course, those are present in our world too. There are beautiful places. There are wonderful, harmonious relationships. But only in pockets. Those glimpses of perfection only make us hunger for more. By-and-large, the world is broken and no one is immune. We all know pain and illness. All of us die. Relationships turn sour. Churches are not immune. The brokenness of this world is visible within churches. People get sick. People fight. People are self-centred.
The brokenness of this world is like a heavy weight we all carry. We struggle bearing the load of decay and pain and sorrow. Romans 8 talks about the whole creation groaning, waiting for redemption. The news seldom carries good news stories. Almost all of the stories are of brokenness.
The 6 o’clock news on TV1last night consisted of the following: the mum appealing the court order that her son receive radiation treatment and the boy being ordered to live with his father during the treatment; a mother of 2 wee girls killed in a car crash; drug manufacturers on trial and others being targeted before the music festival season; the angry reaction of the National Rifle Association in America suggesting armed guards in every school; three more people killed in a Pennsylvania shooting spree; parents of disabled people going to court seeking government support; complaints about an engineer’s assessments of damaged houses in Christchurch questioning whether this was an EQC ploy to save money at the householders’ expense; legal action against a furniture store that supposedly illegally repossessed furniture; protests in Egypt; British compensation to Iraqis who had been mistreated; multiple deaths during a cold snap in Ukraine; Italy’s Prime Minister resigns; a Darwin child-care centre infected by snakes; Druids and New Age believers celebrating the beginning of a new age for the earth; a canoeist drowned at Te Anau; our drowning rates increasing and people’s blasé attitude
Something inside of us says that there must be a better world. Everybody wants a better world. That is why people occupy Wall St and pursue Japanese whaling boats and campaign against abortion.
Do you ever feel weighed down – just tired – because of the bad news? Don’t you hunger for a world free from all of this stuff? Do you ever dream of no pain? No decay? No crime? No suffering? No poverty?
In other words, do you ever dream of the world being the way God designed it to be, not the corrupted version we now live in?
In the beginning, when God created it, the world was perfect. Is that gone forever?
There are many biblical passages that paint a different picture – a picture that seems almost impossible. Think of the Old Testament prophets who talked about the lion lying down with the lamb; the child plays quite safely by the adder’s hole; men beat their swords into ploughshares. There will be no killing. There is no need for swords or for nuclear bombs in this dream. Beat them into ploughs instead.
Or, in the New Testament, we can turn to a passage such as Rev 21:1-4 [READ]
Will the world ever actually be like that or is that just a forlorn dream.
President Obama is speaking of tackling the problem of mass shootings. Maybe at last we will be free of these terrible events. Don’t we all want that?
Absolutely, the President should give leadership to overcome this problem. We should do whatever is right and whatever is going to improve this world.
Equally, we should do all we can to improve mental health care so that there are fewer people who are disturbed and those who are have fewer opportunities to do such terrible things. Of course, we should work on these problems.
But there will still be evil. Sorry Mr President. There will still be people who are determined to wreak havoc. There will still be breakdowns in relationship that cause people to seek revenge. There will still be people who flout the laws. Political power should be used to do what is right and the world will benefit when we do what is right. But if these problems could be solved by political changes or by education, they would have been solved long ago. The brightest minds of yesteryear would have found the solution; we would have done what was needed and we would now be living in a perfect world.
After however many thousands or millions of years of human existence, we still have a broken world.
People do dream of a better world. Hope springs eternal. We are constantly searching for the solution. We have great hopes for a particular political party but it is not long before we are disenchanted and we switch our hopes to another party. Hope seems always to be followed by disappointment.
Think of the euphoria there was when Barak Obama was elected. He was seen as the great black hope. But the problems remain and people feel let down.
All of the time we are searching for a saviour. Will it be some individual? Will it be scientific advances? Will education save us? Will it be “people-power”? Will it come via some grassroots movement?
The song “When a child is born” is often sung a Christmas. It shouldn’t be. It longs for the birth of a child who will save the world. One day there will be a Saviour, it says but by still seeking that saviour it rejects Jesus. As far as this song is concerned, Jesus is not the saviour. We must look for another.
God does have a perfect future planned but human effort has not, and never will, bring it about. It will not come as the result of some great leader or political party or through education. What we are talking about is the Kingdom of God. That perfect future will come when Jesus returns as King. When He reigns there will be perfect justice and harmony. His kingdom will be eternal.
Let’s listen to another prophecy. Listen to how it describes the age to come and listen also for the cause of this new age.
There will be light instead of darkness, growth, prosperity, joy, the yoke of oppression and every burden shattered, the rod of the oppressor shattered, the clothing of war and death burned in the fire. How come?
“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given.”
What will He be like? He will rule. He will be called ‘Wonderful counsellor, mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace.” Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end. He will reign with justice and righteousness forever.
Isn’t that an astounding prospect? That is what everybody is hungering for.
There is a direct connection between last night’s news and Christmas. Everyone is seeking a saviour. Christmas is the celebration of the world receiving its Saviour.
The reason the world is in a mess is that we have rebelled against God. That is the clear biblical message. It is told first in the story of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden. They did exactly what God had told them not to. The result was the world we now inhabit. Immediately, there was tension and antagonism. Adam and Eve were separated from God; they were alienated from each other. A curse was placed on the whole creation. We are living with the effects of that curse. And we too have rebelled against God. We have ratified Adam and Eve’s decision many times over. Sin and perfection are incompatible. Sin has consequences. We are living with those consequences. Sin destroyed the world.
No political policies can deal with human sin. No amount of education can deal with human sin. No radical grassroots movement can overcome this basic, underlying problem.
But God will not be defeated. His original intention will not be thwarted. That perfect world will exist. His Kingdom will come and when it does it will exist for eternity. But, for that to be possible, God had to deal with sin. When the angel came to Joseph and told him that he was to take Mary as his wife because the child she was carrying was conceived by the Holy Spirit, the angel said, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save His people from their sins.”
The angel who appeared to the shepherds said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy. Today, in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Jesus would save His people from their sins. The One who had never sinned took the sins of the world on himself and paid the price on the cross. The power of sin was shattered. God began re-establishing His rule. In the person and the ministry of Jesus, the Kingdom of God was present. Jesus said, “The Kingdom is among you.” Clearly the Kingdom had not yet come in its fullness. The broken world was still broken. And yet, in the midst of it, the Kingdom was present. Whenever a blind person saw or a lame man walked or a leaper was healed, the Kingdom of God was present. Whenever a person is delivered from demonic oppression or is forgiven, the Kingdom of God is present. Whenever someone turns from a life of sin and chooses to live by the values of the King, the Kingdom is present.
Whenever people choose to submit to the King and to live their lives His way, God’s Kingdom is present.
Every church is meant to be a little outpost of the Kingdom of God modelling God’s Kingdom in front of a hungry world. When Christians choose to live God’s way and churches are places of compassion and generosity and forgiveness and selflessness, that is a little foretaste of God’s future, perfect world. It is a light shining in the darkness. And it tells people there is another way to live – God’s way.
Christmas is directly relevant to the Sandy Hook shootings and the deaths in Syria and the car crash in Tokoroa because the world groans, longing for a Saviour and Christmas says, “Here He is.”
The Saviour your neighbour is seeking has come. The Saviour your friend longs for, has come.
God’s Kingdom will come. Who will be part of it? Will you? Those who live under the rule of God now. Those who, through faith in Jesus, repent and choose to live God’s way now.
Will you tell your neighbour that the Saviour he/she longs for has come? How will he know about the Kingdom of God; how will she become a citizen of that Kingdom, if you don’t tell him? We have the news the world is longing to hear.