Saturday, December 12, 2015

Advent Reflections - December 12


“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their
treasures and presented him with gifts 
                                                                     of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

                                                                     Matthew 2:9-11


The astrological event that led the wise men to Jesus was brighter and more spectacular than any other. Through God’s divine providence, it appeared to announce the birth of Christ for those that were watching and waiting. From all practical perspectives, everyone should have noticed the splendor of this unusual event. But the Bible and other historical sources tell us that this was unfortunately not the case. Only a few educated philosophers and astronomers were able to interpret this glorious birth announcement, three of which are revealed in our passage for today. They knew that they were witnessing an extraordinary event. Something was taking place that was beyond the traditional and often narrow view of the natural world, and they wanted to be a part of it.

Sometimes we allow tradition to cloud our perspective of what God is doing in our world. We get so consumed with our narrow view of things that we forget that God's view encompasses so much more. Especially during the Christmas holidays, it’s easy for us to get sidetracked. It’s easy to slip into a complacent mindset that misses the big picture. When this happens, peace tends to elude us and joy becomes a rare. Just as many missed the coming of the Messiah, we miss the unusually bright star in our lives as well because we fail to look up.

As we come to the end of the second week of Advent, let us commit ourselves to look up and see things from God’s perspective. Let us not miss the “bright morning star”. Let us keep our eyes upon the “light of the world”. As He guides us toward Christmas, let our perspective be clear, and our view broad.       


God, we confess that sometimes we allow ourselves to be consumed by the cultural views around us. With our eyes focused on the world, we miss the miraculous things that you do in our lives. Help us, Lord to keep our eyes focused upon you and not miss the guiding stars that you place before us. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Imagine: What did John Lennon Know About the Kingdom?

A few years ago, a friend asked me to describe my picture of the Kingdom of God. Without hesitation, I replied, "John Lennon's song Imagine." He looked at me for a few seconds, as if waiting for the punchline and then laughed. I asked him what was so funny and he answered me rather arrogantly, "Come on! That's liberal idealism. Not the Kingdom of God."

So, do I think that the Kingdom of God is nothing more than a idealistic view of the world? Well, let's take a look at Lennon's words and see. 

                                                     Imagine there's no Heaven
 It's easy if you try 
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

No Heaven? No Hell? Well, before you accuse me of heresy, let's think about this. Before the Fall of man, things existed exactly how God had intended them to be. Life, nature, people, the world and all that existed was the completion and perfection of God's Kingdom. There was no death, so the Earth was our home. Heaven was not something to look forward to. It was reality. Nothing better existed, apart from being God.  There was no need to want or seek anything more than we had. God lived among us. Earth was basically Heaven on Earth, created for man. When sin came into the world, the perfection of Heaven became flawed, thus our need to reside in Heaven after our bodies finally died. Again, it was not the way it was supposed to be. Jesus came into the world to change the path to something different. Something better. Something real.  Heaven became a necessity, a divine plan B until His return. Yes, there is a Heaven, but it was not where we were supposed to live until there was no other option. So yes, Imagine there's no Heaven. Imagine what the Earth was supposed to be like, because in it's essence, it was a reality.   

As for Hell, it was never created for us in the first place. See Matthew 25:41. For the follower of Christ, it shouldn't even be an issue because it was never intended to have anything to do with us. Within the Kingdom of God, Hell has no relevance to us because we would never experience it. If there is a Hell, personally I don't care because I choose to imagine the Kingdom without it.
Imagine there's no countries 
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

Countries only exist because we created them. Again, this is actually a symptom of the Fall of man and sin entering the world. See Genesis 11:1-9. In the Kingdom of God, no countries were ever intended. No borders, so no need for differences, division, war and reasons to dominate each other. No languages to separate us. No nationalities to isolate us. No superiority so that someone else is weaker or less of a human being. And yes, no religion; only a life spent experiencing the presence of the only God in complete unity.  "All the people, living life in peace." Yes! Imagine it!

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

Imagine that there is no need for possessions, because all we have and want comes from God. Imagine a life where we have no desire to have more than someone else. Imagine giving, without any desire to receive.  No keeping up with the Joneses. No need to worry about money. No power struggles. No selfish ambition or greed. No climbing the ladder of success. No retirement funds. No hunger. No poverty. No homelessness.  No healthcare. No "least of these" See Matthew 25:46 Simply imagine the entire world, living together and sharing everything we have and praising God every minute because He's provided everything we need. Not a bad thing to imagine, is it?

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Yes, you can say that I'm a dreamer, and many of you do. That's OK. But I don't think I'm the only one, am I? I think that each and every one of us have these desires for our world. Some of us may have buried them deep down inside, folded up in a file that reads: "Liberalism" "Socialism" "Utopian Nut Jobs" "Idealism"  Maybe it was thrown away all together. But were John Lennon's dreams for the world really that far off from what God wants for us all? I know nothing of his spiritual beliefs, and as far as I know, He didn't follow Christ. But does that make his vision an less real, pure or theological for that matter?
What these words remind us is that it's OK to wonder what the world would be like if the Kingdom of God was here in it's fulfillment. It's what we were created for. It's how things were intended to be. And as followers of Christ, it's our responsibility. Because until Christ returns to earth one day, we're it. The Body of Christ, living and breathing in this fallen world. It's not the responsibility of governments, societies or UNICEF. Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God, we keep it going and advance it, and one day, hopefully soon, He will fulfill it. Is it easy? No. Is it realistic? No. Is it possible in? Not until Christ returns, but try. And we Imagine.