The African Forum on Religion & Government (AFReG) calls on all Christians to increase our prayers as a faith community dialoguing on issues that contribute to Africans Arising Together in the 21st Century.” This week, Tuesday, December 22, 2020, our theme is “Joy and Peace.”
Christmas is a time when we remember the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Over two thousand years ago, the shepherds’ night watch was interrupted by the visit of an angelic host that came with news of great joy that a Savior had been born in Bethlehem. John was later to write that the Word had become flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Light had shone into this dark world. As Jesus introduced His mission at the temple, the Spirit of the Lord had anointed Him to preach the gospel to the poor and to deliver the oppressed. Three and half years later, He walked out of the grave to seal this message once and for all having secured salvation for humanity.
It is this story that forms the foundation of this season—Joy and Peace—twin words that spell the world’s longing and the offer of the cross. Peace is the absence of war, cessation of hostilities and a guaranty that you will not be attacked. It is the condition of the heart when anxiety, fear and conflict are not troubling the human heart. Joy on the other hand, is a deep well that flows from within the heart of God’s people in response to what God has done for them. Joy unlocks a sense of purpose and hope and enables us to experience the fullness of the fruit of the Spirit. The glad tidings of Christmas were that enmity with God would be taken away, those who were spiritually blind would see, the lame would run and the mute would sing the praises of God! What was once dry and useless, broken, destroyed abandoned and neglected would be well-watered, restored and refreshed. This was the gift of Christmas to a world seeking this in the wrong places, the reality of a dream that had eluded mankind since the Fall when he became separated from God. I love the Latin expression Coram Deo. To live Coram Deo means to live in an awareness of the presence of God, to live in constant communion with God where His presence is integrated into every aspect of our lives and not compartmentalized. It is here that we experience the joy and peace that He came to give. For the first time, after His resurrection, He greets them with peace and then breathes on them the Holy Spirit who Paul later explains is the seal or guarantee of what He had promised them. Not only was He giving them the peace of God, but the God of peace would live inside them and among them! This would be the cause of wells of joy springing up from their innermost beings, a joy the world could not take away from them.
In a world full of broken promises and broken treaties, wars and conflicts, global warming and natural disasters, a world in the grip of a terrible pandemic that has claimed the lives of so many and continues its devastating trail, the news of the birth of this child in a manger was good news indeed! God is not angry with us. He loves us so much He has come to dwell among us permanently. Christmas is the promise of Coram Deo, living in the knowledge that we have been reconciled and are now at peace with God. The awareness of what He has done causes wells of joy to flood our hearts regardless of the turmoil and chaos around us. We know that it is finished. Our salvation is complete. Nothing will separate us from His love. He rose from the dead and is alive in us to enforce the terms of the testament He wrote for us. Isaiah told us that of the increase of His government and peace, there would be no end. This world is the scaffolding of what He is building which is almost complete now. Consequently, the scaffolding needs to be dismantled so the reality can be revealed. Remember this as we celebrate His birth this Christmas and may the promise of His coming fill your heart with His joy and peace.
Father God we thank you for sending Jesus Christ to redeem us from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of light. Thank you for the peace and joy that is guaranteed when we receive Him into our hearts.
We are grateful that in the midst of chaos we see all around us, the pain, oppression and depression in many places, you God are working everything after the counsel of your will.
May we be instruments of your peace and joy so that the whole world may know You.
We long for your coming Lord God. As we celebrate your coming on earth this Christmas, may our hearts be filled with joy and peace as we look forward to your soon return.