I hope all of you are enjoying this Advent season as we anticipate the birth of Christ anew. Imagine this coming Christmas was the first celebration of the birth of Jesus. We would not know it as Christmas. Would we know, this soon, that anything special had happened? We would not be together as a body of Christ. We might not know each other at all. There would be no historic Christianity to help us through this time of the church year because there would be no church year.
Imagining this Christmas as the first one is an impossible task. There are too many variables, too many “if-thens”, and too many “what-ifs”. There is too much unwinding of history. The exercise boggles the mind.
Now imagine how the Church, which will take many years to develop, will grow. It will grow because of its promise. It will grow because of the rich faith history in which Jesus will be rooted and raised, in which he firmly stands, albeit with his own views. It will grow because it focuses on the needs of the poor and infirm, the rejected and cast out, and because it calls out the baser instincts of people and calls forth the best in people. It will grow because it recognizes the power of love, joy, peace, and hope. One might hope it will not “grow” through coercion nor through the exercise of pain in the name of love and everlasting life.
Bishop John Shelby Spong said this in a recent interview for ProgressiveChristianity.org:
“I think the Christian church has got to see itself in a different way. I think Jesus was a boundary breaker and I think every time there’s a boundary that sets one person off against another, I think the Christian faith has to break that boundary down. That’s the salvation of the church. If we can do that, we can keep relevant. I think we ought to break every boundary. You’ve got to break the boundary around the creed, the literalism of the creed. You’ve got to break the boundary around theology. You’ve got to break the boundary around practice: who’s in, who’s out class warfare. Christianity can’t live in a world that’s got boundaries that sets one person off against another person. So we’re always going to be controversial, we’ve got to be controversial. By our very nature we’re controversial. And if we ever cease to be controversial, we’ll cease to be Christian – and that’s not easy for people to embrace. But that’s where we are.”
Beloved of God, to get through life together, and to share abundant life, we need to break the boundaries that separate. We are not alone. We have each other. We have “I Am.”
Rev Jim Sinclair
Pastor Jim is the minister for First United Baptist Church