Early in the Second World War, May 1940, the British Expeditionary Forces in France were surrounded by German Panzer divisions and forced to retreat to Dunkirk. It looked like a terrible defeat was imminent, but then Churchill called for an attempt to rescue the army, using both military and civilian boats and ships. In just a few days, 338,000 men were taken from the beaches of Dunkirk, including French forces. In their narrow escape they left behind their armaments but saved their lives. The moment, though just an escape, enabled the British to fight on. Four years later, June 1944, the Allied forces returned to the beaches of France and the Normandy was the beginning of the march to victory over the Nazis.
Advent is a time to celebrate a triumph, not an escape!
Christ came not to take us out of the world or to lead us into isolated and detached holy communities. We are called to live as He did, engaged with the world, dealing with sin, bringing hope and healing, people of peace and love. John tells us “So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father.” (John 1:14, NLT)
The Gospels show us our Savior speaking to His world, loving the broken and bruised, forgiving the sinner, healing the sick. Some loved Him, some hated Him. Could He have retreated to some desert place, gathering a few devoted followers, living in relative safety? I suppose that was possible, but it was not His mission. One day in Jericho, after He had gone to have dinner in the home of man named Zacchaeus, a notoriously sinful man, He told those who questioned His choice – “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10, NIV)
Christian, God, the Holy Spirit, lives in us, giving us gifts (spiritual callings and abilities) to do God’s work in our world. Let’s not make Jesus a reason for retreat, an escape from a world often ugly and cruel. Rather, let us pray to be like Him – courageous in the face of evil, filled with a passion for God’s work, serving the least, standing for justice, and inviting all who will come by faith to enter the Kingdom of God with us!
Glenn Packiam, a pastor in Costa Mesa, CA, wrote this parable.
“Imagine a boy being bullied on the playground. Kids surround him, taunt him, push him onto the ground. He’s fighting back the tears, but that’s about all he can fight; there’s no way to stop the terror and the torment. Then, almost out of nowhere, a car pulls up. It’s the kid’s father. “Get in the car, son,” the dad yells. Rolling out of the other kids’ grasp, the boy scrambles to his feet and stumbles to the car. They speed off. As the boy looks briefly out the window, he is sure the bullies are laughing. The boy is safe, but there’s no way to count that as a win. An evacuation is not a victory. …
Creatively imagine a totally different scenario: Instead of the dad yelling for his kid to get in so they can drive away, the dad parks the car, gets out, and walks slowly over. The authority of his very presence drives away the bullies. He embraces his son. He calls out to other kids who are hiding, who are hurting, to come out into the light. He decides to settle in and remake the playground entirely, now with better equipment and brighter delights. Food and drinks arrive. Then comes the music. And ice cream. Laughter abounds. Somehow the place of pain has become the place of joy.” – Christianity Today, 12/3/22
Our Savior is that Dad who goes to the playground and transforms it with His Presence. Shall we join in Him in that holy mission in our world today?
The word from the Word is from Isaiah, a passage that Jesus quoted as He began His work in the synagogue of Capernaum. May they comfort us and call us to a holy passion.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me
to preach Good News to the poor.
He has sent me
to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and
that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19, NLT)
He came once to save. He will come again in victory. Hallelujah, for the Lord, our God, the Almighty reigns.
Lead on O King Eternal
The day of march has come
Henceforth in fields of conquest
Thy tents shall be our home
Thro’ days of preparation
Thy grace has made us strong
And now O King eternal
We lift our battle song
Lead on O King Eternal
‘Till sin’s fierce war shall cease
And holiness shall whisper
The sweet Amen of peace
For not with swords loud clashing
Nor roll of stirring drums
With deeds of love and mercy
The heav’nly kingdom comes
Lead on O King Eternal
We follow not with fears
For gladness breaks like morning
Where’er Thy face appears
Thy cross is lifted o’er us
We journey in its light
The crown awaits the conquest
Lead on O God of might
Ernest Warburton Shurtleff | Henry Thomas Smart | Ovid Young
© Words: Public Domain