An Episcopal Call to the Malaysian Methodist Family
THE MISSIONAL CHRIST CHILD OF CHRISTMAS
We once again enter into the Advent and Christmas Season and look forward to a time of celebration which is observed globally.
At this time of writing, the world is marked by the colours of blue, white and red. As citizens of the world we share in the grief of the nation of France by displaying the colour of its flag. It was reported that at least 129 have perished, and 352 injured [99 critically] as a result of the 13 November 2015 Islamic State terrorist attack on Paris. This dastardly and barbaric act that maimed and ended so many lives prematurely has truly shocked the world, reminding us of the ever-presence of evil and sin. The Christ Child’s rescue mission was all about salvation from sin and evil.
The Bible plainly declares, But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons[Galatians 4:4, 5]. Through His eternal planning, God prepared the world for the right moment in human history for the incarnation of His one and only Son to live so that He could sacrificially die for the citizens of His creation, once and for all.
The Christ-child fulfilled God’s mission of being the once-and-for-all perfect redemptive offering for the sins of humankind. The author of the book of Hebrews unequivocally makes this point: For God's will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. 11 Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins.12 But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God's right hand. 13 There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. 14For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy [Hebrews 10:10-14].
“The time appointed” by God or “the perfect time” in history was at the time of the Pax Romana [“Roman peace”, that spanned 30 BC to 180 AD] in which Rome had unity and peace under one emperor that began with Octavian, who was conferred the title of Augustus by the Roman Senate. He laid the foundation for strong rule and peace, whereby the prosperity of Rome was enhanced, and infrastructure such as roads were extensively built so that the early Christians were able to travel widely under persecution and dispersion, to fulfill their mission of sharing the Gospel beyond Palestine.
As we celebrate Christmas this year, against the backdrop of a world which is vulnerable to the unnerving possibilities of violence, evil and threatening uncertainties, the people of God must remember that our God is still sovereignly in control of time and timing. God’s providential missional oversight of the events of the world had directed and laid the groundwork in preparing individuals, people groups and nations for the accomplishment of the mission of His Son then. This included the necessity of Christ’s earthly vulnerability of suffering, pain and death at the Cross, but thereafter the proclamation of the Good News of salvation in Him.
Christmas also reminds us that there is still to be the second and final coming of the resurrected Christ that will complete His mission of salvation of the world. God’s word in Mark 13:24 – 29 declares this forthcoming and ever-drawing-closer-to-fulfilment truth: "At that time, after the anguish of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light,25 the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the world-- from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven. 28 "Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. 29 In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that his return is very near, right at the door.
So while we celebrate Christmas against the backdrop of a world which is vulnerable to the unnerving possibilities of violence, evil and threatening uncertainties, let us never forget that our God is still the sovereign and providentially missional Father God. He is still in control of yet another “at the time appointed” or “the fullness of time” in which He will send the resurrected Christ to come a second time that will inaugurate the promised “new heaven and new earth”.
So we joyfully celebrate Christmas out of deep gratitude to the Christ Child Who came to redeem us. We share this joy via various expressions and practices as a redeemed community within our church culture. But we also reach out to touch a fearful and vulnerable world that is in need of the hope and stability of the sovereign missional God Who continues to be in control of timing and times.
In addition, as the people of God, we also celebrate Christmas in remembrance, anticipation and preparation for yet a final coming of the resurrected Christ. The Church serves as a sign and instrument of the Divine mission of saving the world that will culminate in Christ’s second coming. We are to live as missional believers and as a missional church, realising that “there is a Church because there is a mission” -divinely planned from eternity. We are meant to be the celebratory missional people of God sent to proclaim the Gospel of Christ [John 20:21] and do God’s work [John 5:17,19] in the world after the Missio Dei [“mission of God”] that awaits to be consummated when Christ comes again.
May we all celebrate Christmas experiencing the deep personal joy of being recipients of the fruit of the redemptive mission of the Christ Child. May Christmas also spur us on to be missional believers awaiting the coming of the resurrected Christ in a world vulnerable to the unnerving possibilities of violence, evil and threatening uncertainties; a world that stands in desperate need of being touched and transformed by the Gospel.
May God grant you and your loved ones a deeply meaningful and holy Christmas filled with His hope, love, peace and joy.
Bishop Ong Hwai Teik
"Spreading Scriptural Holiness,
Transforming the Nation."
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