“Spreading the News of the Savior”
December 24, 2016, Christmas Eve
Isaiah 9: 2 - 7/ Psalm 96/ Titus 2: 11 – 14/ Luke 2: 1 – 14
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
It is a joyful evening. I don’t mind worshipping right beside the promise that God has given to us – our own land. Soon will rise on that site is something that will be a testimony. It may be small, but tonight, 2000 years ago started small. The event that changed the whole world started in a manger, of all places. A Child is born unto us, and it forever changed the world. The world will never be the same again.
The good thing about God is that He doesn’t renege on His word. If He says something, He fulfils it. We can count on every promise of God. Imagine Jesus walking out of the boat into the storm and leaving His disciples. It is not very likely of Jesus. Imagine Him bringing light where darkness is and then after a while, He walks away from the darkness. Imagine Him bringing food to the hungry, and then, running out of supply and then leaves. This is not our God. Our God came down from heaven, took on flesh, was numbered among us, and decided to forever pitch His tent among us. He stayed with us and was with us until the work is done.
The Lord has sworn a truth from which He will not turn back. He has chosen Zion for His habitation, and this will be His resting place forever. He is not like a man who says something to the love of his life supposedly in front of a group of people, in front of the altar, and after one or two years or the case may be, he stops fulfilling his word. God will be with us forever and He says, “Here I will dwell forever and I will abundantly bless her provision, and I will satisfy her needy with bread.”
God commanded the blessing in Zion – the blessing of life forever, that is, eternal life in the New Testament. God is not pleased with those who shrink back because this is not His nature. This is not the image that He put in us. God hates divorce. He is our Wonderful Counselor; our Mighty God; the Prince of Peace; our Everlasting Father. The angels proclaimed, “Peace on earth to those on whom His favor rests.”
We think, “God chooses those whom His favour rests.” No, He makes it available to everyone and to anyone who is willing to accept it, He has His favour. Whoever is willing to accept will be awed by this wonderful God with the guidance of this Wise Counselor. They will experience the love of God the Father, and they will live in peace because the Prince of Peace will rule and reign in their hearts. Whoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life.
I love questions about the manger scene. This was supposed to be the event of all history, which forever will change the world. It is the birth of the century, but what happened with its timing? It had a very bad timing. God could have calculated nine months before a good weather. It is not before census or before Joseph and his wife would have to travel. What about logistics? It is not even a hotel or an inn that would accommodate them. There was no preparation. There were no funds. There was nothing that could buy them even for a diaper. Jesus was just wrapped in swaddling cloth. There were no RSVP for dignitaries. Nothing happened in the way it’s supposed to happen.
What about this Child’s genealogy? His bloodline had prostitutes in it, murderers, adulterers, and everything that is shady – nothing that is to be proud of. Where are the dignitaries, the herald, the advertisements, the newsflash, bulletins, big party? This is supposed to be the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Where are these things? No, it happened not in tinseltown, but in a humdrum town, in a small, sleeping town. It happened not in a palace, but in a manger, in a place where horses and donkeys drink water from. The King of kings and the Lord of lords was not wrapped in satin sheets but in rags. His guests were not VIPs, but shepherds, a class that was low in their society. There was no, “Hear ye, hear ye.” It was a silent night. Yes, there was the fanfare of the heavenly hosts, but who was their audience?
Either that this was the worst planned event of all times, or the perfect portrayal of what Child this, and the kind of Kingdom He represents. The prophecy of Isaiah says there will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace. How did He inaugurate the kingdom of peace? It was in His humble, meek, vulnerable, way and He allowed Himself to be subject to men He created – allowing them to change His diapers, to raise Him, to teach Him, and He learned from them. This is the Kingdom that He represents. He represents love, peace, humility, an otherward concern, affection, compassion, and sacrificial love. It was not the fanfare of the world or how we would do it or how kings would do it.
His kingdom was the exact opposite of the world’s futile ways. He inaugurated by crushing deeds of darkness and thus, establishing peace. It was not through fallen man’s ways of violence and lording over and dominating. There was a very famous quote that says that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. It was only light that can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do. In spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.”
Killing a godfather of the mob will only enlists his relatives because they will just avenge. Jesus said that he who lives by the sword will die by the sword. Every empire in history that came to power and lived by the sword was toppled by the sword. All you get from violence and from subduing by the sword is temporary ceasefire. The Prince of Peace is proclaiming to us what the way of true peace is, which is everlasting.
An Irish rock band in protest of violence against them sang, “There is many lost, but tell me who has won?” Another band speaking against violence said, “But you see, it’s not me, it’s not my family,” and they are described as apathetic zombies. As long as their families and loved ones are not harmed, they don’t care. This is not God. God jumps into the same boat we are in. He was numbered with the transgressors. He suffered with us; He even died for us because He loved the world so much.
Christ came the first time in peace, and I believe that He will return in peace because He is the Prince of Peace. It won’t be retribution, punishment of the wicked, which is the way the world brings peace. They would kill enough of the bad guys and then, there will be peace. Sadly, even Christians think so. They think of the second coming having Jesus with the army of angels aligning all the bad guys so that we who are holy can enjoy His presence. My question is: who does Jesus exclude in the annihilation? You, me? He is the Prince of Peace and He is a forgiving God. He is not an avenging God, but a forgiving God. He offers His cheek to those who slap Him. He offers His coat and He walks an extra mile. His peace is not the absence of conflict. Peace is the ability to handle conflict in the midst of it. Peace is staying in the presence of God; in the Shalom of God in the midst of conflict. It is like courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to face the situation even if there is fear.
God loves us so much. He sacrificially brought peace to us at a price that we cannot even imagine. He became incarnate to embody this peace. This is the price He had to pay. He left heaven where there was peace, order, and harmony; and He came down to earth to a fallen world, to a people who had no hope, to a people sitting in darkness, and to a people who were in need of His peace, His love and His hope. He embodied this peace.
What does peace look like? It is becoming poor even if one is rich to enrich the poor. Peace is bearing the sickness of others in order for them to be healed. It is loving the marginalized – people who would not be given attention to. Peace is dying so that to who deserve it the least, will live.
Christ established the Kingdom of peace. He did destroy the works of darkness and of the devil. In Hebrews, it says that He left nothing that is not subject to Him. He subjected everything under His feet, but we don’t see yet everything subjected to Him. He did establish peace on earth when He came in principle. You would ask, “Why isn’t there peace still? Why do we see killings here and there? Why do we see conflict and turmoil and hopelessness? Where is peace?” It seems like the Kingdom is not yet here and the Kingdom was not established and this was a farce.
The Kingdom is real and God doesn’t force the truth on anyone. He influences and He inspires. This brings us to our calling, our permanent calling that we who have been inspired, who have been influenced, who believed and who have experienced His peace, are now being called to be conduits of this peace. We are now called to be proclaimers of this peace. We are called ambassadors of reconciliation. If there was conflict between God and man, now, there is reconciliation. Now, there is peace.
“Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” Because of God’s choosing, we, who are ambassadors of peace, are to show the world how that peace looks like. In a world of darkness, we are to show them what light looks like. In a world without hope, we are to show them what hope looks like. In a world that is full of greed, we need to show them what generosity looks like. We are to show them how we could have peace in doing these things because we have proven and experienced it every single day.
This is the way Jesus did it. This is the way we are called to do it – every single day. It's not just during Christmas or in this Season, but in every single day. Jesus showed those who don’t acknowledge that this Kingdom is real, that this Kingdom is here that indeed this Kingdom is real; and it is here; and Jesus did establish peace here on earth! Peace, goodwill and God’s favor are available to anyone who would be willing to accept Him.
This is the good news of great joy for all people. Tonight, we commemorate the inauguration of this Kingdom which brought good news not only to a chosen few, but to all men! Anyone who would care to believe and accept this will have this good news become real in their hearts and in their lives.
We are Christ’s heralds. Maybe the reason it was intended that there would be no heralds then is because the heralds had not known yet that they were called. We are Christ’s trumpeters, the newsflash, the billboard of this Kingdom. We do this until the fullness of time comes; and then, He will return to increase peace, in the fullness of this peace that His kingdom has established.
This is what Christmas is all about, and this is the way it is in the Kingdom of peace of our God!