December 2, 2012
What Jesus Started: Part Two of FiveAn Advent series inspired by What Jesus Started.
Advent is a time of anticipation. Whether in joyful hope ("Hark, the Herald Angels Sing") or pleading anxiety ("O Come, Emmanuel"), we wait for the world to be set right, symbolized by the birth of the world's Savior, Jesus the Christ. The thing that Advent anticipates is affirmation of a long-held article of faith, declared by Hagar and echoed by Hannah and Mary and countless others: "You are the God who sees me" (Genesis 16:13).
Steve Addison, in his book What Jesus Started, understands Jesus' incarnation as inaugurating not just a static kingdom but an expanding movement that stretches even to today. Seeing is the first incremental stage of this movement, and we are called likewise to see the world as God sees it: as a place in need of a God of love, as a drama moving steadily toward its redemptive resolution by the grace of God. But for God and us to see the world in this way is not nearly enough, even as for us to be seen by God is not enough to carry us through the challenges we face. Even pop singers affirm that God sees us, if only "from a distance." God goes further, and he calls us to go further as well. We must not only see, we must connect.
Jesus didn't just come down from heaven, take a quick look at the earth, wave a magic wand and split. Jesus attached himself to the earth--and not by way of an emperor or tribal king or temple priest or even the head of a household. He literally connected himself, umbilically, to a young, unmarried girl from a backwoods town. He was born and moved around, learning the cultural practices and worldviews of a particular people, rehearsing their history and growing in wisdom and stature over the course of decades.
When it came time for him to act on behalf of God's creation, he was baptized, fulfilling all the righteousness his culture expected of him. He became a rabbi, embracing a role that the people could understand and interact with (this despite his conviction, expressed in Matthew 23:8, that "you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers"). He confronted people of power and sought out and befriended people of peace. He recruited followers from all corners of society and made them agents in his redemptive work. This Son of God, we affirm by faith as well as by all historical accounts, was fully human, a man of a particular time and place. He saw the world because he was there, and he loved the world enough to give himself to it.
The movement Jesus started is fueled by this connection. We reach out to others not as abstractions in need of some ethereal soul-redemption but as neighbors who were created to love and be loved, and who fall short of the glory of God but do not fall out of reach of God's grasp. We connect to the world because Christ first connected himself to us, and by those connections we and the world are saved.
What Jesus started begins with seeing and continues with connecting. But even these are not the whole story. Next week we'll reflect on how Jesus shares, and how we are called to do likewise. But for this week, it will be enough to remind ourselves that we are connected, and that the world needs more and fuller expressions of its connection to us and to God.
Read chapter two of What Jesus Started, as well as sessions three and four in the implementation guide. (You can sample the book here.)
This week, pray for people who are disconnected in one way or another from God and neighbors. How is God inviting you to extend yourself toward those people?
Be on the lookout for "people of peace"--people who are open to new connections and who are themselves ports of entry into communities of people you've not interacted with before. Pray about how you might make meaningful connections with those people of peace in the days and weeks to come.