M erry Christmas everyone!
We wish you all the best as we celebrate this time of welcoming the arrival of our savior!
Being here on the other side of the world from most of you, we’re sometimes a little late on hearing what’s going on over there and what the current American cultural trends are, etc. But there are two things we’ve been hearing a lot of lately:
1) The fear of escalating terrorism, and the efforts made to protect the people from potential harm. Many of those efforts include ostracizing many of the victims of terrorism, and declining to welcome them and care for them because of the potential risk they might bring with them.
2) That all religions are the same, or that we all worship the same God. That fundamentally there’s no difference between the Christian God and the Muslim one.
Both of these issues seem to be very divisive to the American people and even to American Christians. It’s been troubling to us to read responses on both sides. I can’t claim to have all the answers or all the insight into what’s going on over there or around the world, but clearly everything is in a big mess. Yet I do believe that Jesus and the Bible speak some very life-giving words on both of these accounts, especially now at Christmas-time. I’ll start with the second one first.
I believe our God, our Christ, is unique among all faiths in the world in this: that he humbled himself to take on human form, to descend into the mess of our lives and our world, to be known as one of us. God is with us. Many other gods send prophets or create laws, they rule from a distance. But our God became flesh and lived among us, even as a helpless baby. From there, he wasn’t content to remain human, to let the status quo and the desires of life rule; but he had his eye on re-creation, on making all things new. God is for us. Some other gods can’t be separate from their creation, from its death and decay, and thus have no will or power to renew it. But it was for that purpose that our God took all of our mess upon himself and fulfilled its consequences – he died. And when the consequences of sin and death could hold him no longer, he rose again to birth a new world and a new Kingdom right in our midst – that all who follow the Sovereign King might be born again into that new Kingdom and together we anticipate the full rebirth of a new Creation. Our God, alone among all faiths of the world, is unique in these things: he is with us and he is for us. And we know his name: Jesus.
And we know his character: as he walked his paths in this world, he declined to look out for his own best interests, nor his safety and security. He was born into this world knowing very surely that those who hated him would kill him. Yet he came willingly and he offered his life into their hands. As they mocked him, he asked that they would be forgiven. Though even his followers often doubted his actions, he rebuked them and invited openly those who were condemned and despised in their society: the children, the tax collectors, the unbelievers, the foreigners. He met their needs and he welcomed them into his Kingdom. All of this was a fulfillment of what he had revealed to the people of Israel centuries before:
We can’t pretend that to do as Jesus did is safe. It’s not. When Jesus asked people to follow him, he offered them persecution and death, he told them to “take up your cross and follow me.” He didn’t even say that if they’d simply offer their lives, that therefore everything they sought to accomplish in this life would be fulfilled. We’re not guaranteed success and fulfillment in this life, not even safety from harm. But it’s his Kingdom and it’s his way. We trust that as we live according to the laws of his Kingdom (and not those of our earthly kings), that the King will come again, that he will reign, even on earth as he does in heaven. And so as we follow him, we welcome the foreigner, we meet their needs, and we love them through the grace of Jesus’s love given to us, no matter how risky it is.
E ach and every one of us were foreigners to God’s Kingdom, to his lands, and with no hope of acceptance. So then God came to us, to our land. As one of us, he tore down the fences and the dividing walls that were built by our sin; and the effort killed him. But death couldn’t keep him and with his resurrection he granted admission into God’s Kingdom for all who follow him, that we’d be reborn as citizens of a new Kingdom, that we would live new lives in him. To me, that’s the story of Christmas – unique among all stories in the world. A dangerous and beautiful story. A true story. We pray for all of you that you would faithfully live your parts of this wonderful Christmas story!
Adam, Lora, Matimu, and David Willard
P.S. A quick update on us: we’re still in South Africa and we’ve successfully attained most of David’s official paperwork. It’s been quite a struggle, more than we anticipated. But now we’ve been approved for all of it and we’re just waiting for his passport to arrive from the US. It may make us about a week late in our return to Madagascar, but it may still arrive on time. Please pray for God’s guidance in this timing, if we should delay our plane tickets or not.