Well the day of Christmas seem to give way quite readily to the days of the New Year. But do not go so fast in that analysis. At Redeemer we attempt to keep in our hearts and in our life together the meaning of God with Us – in and through all times. Therefore, the New Year is already shaped by the story of the birth in Bethlehem. It is shaped – that is – by real life that is meant for all without regard to background, credentials, place of birth, or whatever else the world uses to divide us.
We all know so well the many ways people are able to turn against one another. And yet, we are invited to turn toward one another. That can be such a powerful way to face 2015. Imagine turning toward those from whom we have been running. Imagine turning toward those we have decided to exclude for what we consider to be very good reasons. Imagine turning toward those who seem to carry views we cannot accept and actions we cannot condone.
Within the domain of God with Us, we are able to make each day into a new day. Yes, we will all continue to be plagued by various aspects of our past and our present. But unto us is born a life that is meant to deliver us – set us free – liberate us – save us from all that attempts to bring us nothing but the same old world we know so well. So follow up the twelve days of Christmas with a whole year that demonstrates that our God is truly with Us.
Welcome means welcome. All means all. Beloved means beloved. Forgiven means forgiven. In the world of American Christianity, those words are quite common, but each one can be dropped or burdened with conditions. When the love of God that knows no limit cannot be contained by the conditions humanity loves to place on all things, it is truly a love that will not let us go. This is a rare love . . . it is a costly love . . . it is a bold and upfront love for all.
When we hear about such a love, we must not let it go sour. That is, we must not let its character be changed into something it is not. When we hear about the Good News but it seems to be held back from some people, we must hold that kind of "news" suspect. Too often, popular religious movements put together some fine music, great organizational prowess, and dynamic oratory, yet they quickly drop or limit the expansive nature of God’s grace. Welcome becomes a word limited to some. All becomes merely all of us. Beloved becomes a label we must keep earning. Forgiveness becomes loaded with fine print.
Well-greased and dynamic organizations that appear to serve great numbers of people can be a wonderful sight. But when that service to others lacks an unbounded grace that boldly serves without condition, we must risk saying that such service is not "Good News" at all. It is simply the same old model of business and success that has been shaped by a culture of conditions, rewards, bias, and self-justification.
If we are afraid to trust this available character of our God, why should we say that we honor and love God and neighbor? It is important to be utterly upfront about the foundation upon which we stand when we say we are followers of Jesus. We serve the world well if we are bold and upfront about our welcome, love, and forgiveness for all—no conditions.