This is the meditation I wrote that appears in today’s reading and reflection in Liberti Church’s Advent 2013 Prayerbook, which can be downloaded for free.
First, a question.
Think back on the Christmas story. After Jesus is born, when he’s about three-years old, King Herod puts out a decree calling for the death of all infants, trying to kill Jesus. An angel comes to Joseph in a dream and tells him to flee to Egypt to prevent Jesus from dying in this slaughter.
Here’s the question: why flee to Egypt?
If they stayed and Herod killed the child Jesus, wouldn’t that still be the Son of God dying unjustly at the hands of a Roman provincial governor? Why go to all that effort to wait 30 years later for the same thing to happen on a cross?
In order for the mission of Advent to be complete, Jesus needed to taste much more than human death. He needed to taste human life. He needed to taste the totality of injustice that reigns in this world and our hearts. And at three years old, he hadn’t.
The presence of sin and injustice in this world is something that infects far more than our actions and motives. It is comprehensive: it’s in our relationships, our bodies, our crops, and our governance; it’s in our entertainment, our sport, our humor, and our weather; it’s in our technology, art, science, and history. It’s woven into the most meaningful and most intimate parts of our human lives and existence.
And in Adventing, Jesus intended to make it all new.
Gregory of Naziaznus, a 4th-century Church leader, once said, “What Christ did not taste, Christ did not redeem”. If there is any injustice in your life and this world that Jesus didn’t experience or undergo, then it was not paid for on the cross and we have no hope in its redemption.
The beauty and good news of Advent is that, in Jesus, God has tasted our injustices and has made them new. He took the absolute injustice that infects our world and hearts and let it infect him, so when he dies, he kills injustice in his own body, or as Paul puts it: “he condemned sin the flesh.” It’s not just Christ’s death that saves us, but also his life.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground.
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found
[image credit: “Massacre of the innocents” from a 10-th Century illustrated biblical manuscript]