The following is a shared Christmas and New Year post written by ABTS faculty. The contributors articulate ideas around the “Eternal Weight of Glory,” “The Dwelling Place of God,” the “New Birth,” and “A Child of Bethlehem.” A timely reminder, that God is with us in our challenging times.
“An Eternal Weight of Glory”
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
This has perhaps been the most difficult Christmas and new year’s season…ever! I struggle to find words that encourage us to be hopeful at this time. Suffering, agony, pain, and torture are all around in our Middle East region. As a Palestinian Christian, I particularly feel deeply pained. But as Christ followers, because our Lord is the one who brings life out of death, we choose to cling to hope in a hopeless world. We are mourning the many losses: precious souls, a flourishing community, physical belongings, stability, peace, and much more. As we think of our present and future, the Word of God reminds us that our “affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory.” However, anticipating this eternal weight of glory to be manifested requires time, courage, patience, faith, hope, and trust.
I interpret Paul’s words above as saying that the Lord is calling the Church to be prepared for His second coming. To this end, I believe the Church is in a position to do two things: practice the prophetic role in seeking peace and justice, and continue to work diligently in light of Christ’s second coming. We should redeem the time, because the days are evil. Even when our hearts are aching, we still have this solid assurance that Christ is with us, and for us, that just as Christ reigned through the suffering, we too shall be rewarded for all the affliction we are enduring at this time. We also have this promise that “the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways” (Luke 3:5).
To the cries of so many others, I can only add my “Lord have mercy!” Maranatha!
“The Dwelling Place of God”
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
Christmas is this particular time of the year when we intentionally reflect on the dwelling of our Lord among us, and the message of hope it embodies. This message reminds us that even in the most challenging times, there is always a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a time for families and communities to come together, offering support and encouragement to each other in the face of adversity. The spirit of hope that the Nativity of our Lord brings encourages us to have faith in a better tomorrow and gives us the strength to persevere through hardships. As we welcome a new year and reflect on past events, we cannot help but think about the ever-growing pain and suffering in our Middle Eastern context. Despite it all, we find comfort in the fact that we are not alone. We thank God for His dwelling among us and look forward with hope, knowing that He is with us in the midst of suffering.
The incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ instills in us the belief that transformation is not only possible but also necessary. As followers of the Lord Jesus, Christ’s incarnation inspires us to live out our faith actively. The Nativity of our Lord embodies a powerful message of hope and new beginnings. It brings people together in unity, spreading love and kindness throughout the world. During this season, we are reminded that even in the darkest moments, hope can guide us through. It is a message of embracing the opportunity for new beginnings. It’s a time for us to reflect on yesterday and look forward to what lies ahead with hope. May this time of year be a reminder that no matter what challenges we face, there is always hope for a better tomorrow. Let us embrace and live out the spirit of hope that God has initiated in our fallen world.
“New Birth – New Beginning”
“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Matthew 1:1
With a new birth, there is a new beginning and a new life. This simple fact originated with the history of the human race reflected in genealogies. We often skip reading biblical genealogies. We are tempted to think that “they are nothing but a list of boring and foreign names. What can we learn from such a dry list?”
Nonetheless, when we read genealogies in the Bible (e.g., Genesis; 1 Chronicles 1-9; Matthew 1), they contain both death and life. They tell us that while there is death there is also life. There is grief but there is also a sense of anticipation. There is an end but there is also a new life and a new beginning.
As we read the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew, it marks the beginning of a new era in history. It is hard to miss the link between the book of Genesis and the book of Matthew. As Genesis records the beginning of creation, the Gospel of Matthew records “the genealogy [genesis] of Jesus Christ the son of David” (Matthew 1:1). This “genesis” tells the story of a new beginning, the birth and the arrival of Jesus the Messiah. It also announces the coming of the promised King, the Son of David. Jesus is the son of Abraham, the promised blessing to all the nations (Gen. 12:1-3).
These days, we read a list of dead names almost every day in our world because of the wars that are taking place in many Middle Eastern countries, including the current one in Israel/Gaza. While we are reading these “lists” of valued lost souls, we remember the birth of Jesus Christ. Our celebration of his birth is linked closely to the beginning of a new year too. It is our prayer during this time that this birth and a new beginning bring with them a new life and a new era of peace in our troubled world. Let us live our days with a sense of anticipation and hope. Though there is death, there is also a new life and a new beginning.
“A Child of Bethlehem”
“…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’” Matthew 2:13
Jesus, a child of Bethlehem, a refugee fleeing with his mother and Joseph from the threat of death, as the rulers of his country sought his demise from the moment of his birth.
He lived, understanding the meaning of the struggle to preserve true identity amidst claims of false identity propagated by those around him in the name of religion.
He lived the weight of communicating with people he loved, to the extent of embodiment and sacrifice, loving them to the point of relinquishing his power and wealth, taking on the image of a servant for those he loved. He saw these people as his joy, wealth, and satisfaction.
Yet they had eyes but could not see and ears but could not discern the voice of truth and freedom emerging from his lips.
He wandered the streets of his town, at times creating good for the desperate and hopeless, the broken-hearted who had been defeated in life’s heavy battles. Other times, he wept over a city filled with hearts that rejected the voice of truth from the mouth of the one who created and sustained it.
With every step, his feet collided with the mire of evil, visible to his eyes and exposed by his thoughts, yet it never darkened his heart.
He grew up a stranger in thought and mission in his generation, criticizing all pretenders who arrogantly used the name of God as a shield to manipulate his creation as it appeared to them. They positioned themselves as guardians of truth, though they were the farthest from it.
He dared to declare that he and God were one, and that he was the only way to escape the falsehood of our distorted humanity tainted by sin and discover true humanity.
Jesus, the child of Bethlehem, was born poor, a refugee, a stranger, rejected, and finally crucified.
He chose to associate with all of this on our earth, in order to credit to humanity everything that belongs to his Father’s kingdom.