• The Explore the Bible lesson for Dec. 25 focuses on Luke 1:26-38.
Perhaps as never in recorded history, we live in a culture obsessed with the end times. Movies about apocalyptic zombies and world-ending wars fill theaters, as people allow their imaginations to run wild with questions about when and where and how the world as we know it will come to an end.
It’s only natural, in some senses, that mankind would be so obsessed with evil and the end toward which it seems to be leading. Weapons of mass destruction of a size impossible to grasp with our imaginations fill the bunkers of future wars. Terrorists willing to die themselves in order to kill others stalk the streets of an America we once believed to be completely safe.
Fear drives elections, and political campaigns thrive on it, as well. It almost begs the question: What would our world be like without fear?
God breaks into history
Yet, in a time even more tenuous than ours, when political corruption and corporate evil dominated the world, God broke into the human scene, not with another diabolical plot, but with a divine promise to redeem what seems doomed for nothing but a hopeless end.
The announcement of Gabriel to Mary was one of joy and hope: “‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you,’” (Luke 1:28).
If we choose, even as we claim to be people of Divine eternal hope, we can surrender to the climate of despair all around us—a climate defined by economic uncertainty, military domination of the most vulnerable, unconquered diseases that respond to no drug known to man. We can give in to despair.
We have an option. Instead of giving into despair we can, just as did the angel Gabriel, see cultural despair as the canvass against which to paint a portrait of hope as portrayed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
How love responds to sin
All the way back in the book of Genesis, God revealed God’s plot for a world broken and dying in sin. The Creator could have given into despair once God’s new creation chose the way of sin and death. Instead, God saw man’s brokenness as the backdrop against which God would demonstrate how love responds to sin.
In the third chapter of Genesis, God promised the Evil One the end result of his rebellion would be his own destruction. The ones Satan intended to conquer with death would instead be the source of the life of the One in whom and through whom God would redeem the world.
Centuries passed. Time and again, prophets spoke the truth of God to God’s people, reminding them God was not finished with them and that only those who were painfully patient would live to see God’s redemptive purposes lived out among them.
In this day and time of brokenness and fear and apocalyptic fear-mongering, Luke’s gospel is a reminder of one great truth: God has promised to redeem what sin has broken. Beyond that, in Christ we see living proof that what God starts, God always finishes.
When I was in high school in West Texas, I worked for a cotton farmer. He paid $1.15 per hour. We worked long, hard hours, too. At the end of the day, when he drove me home, I’d sit in the cab of the farmer’s pickup while he figured the day’s wages.
Each and every day, he wrote me a check as faithfully as the sun set in the west and rose in the east. I could count on him absolutely, because what he promised he always delivered. What I earned, I was paid in full.
The glorious, wondrous hope of the gospel is knowing that God will keep God’s promises, too—with one soul-saving difference. At the end of the day, God will square things up between justice and injustice. Evil will answer to love, death to hope.
What God promised as recorded in Genesis 3, God will deliver completely, with one great exception. The wage of all our sin is death, we are promised in the book of Romans. If God were to pay us what we are due, the check would be written out to eternal death.
Instead, at the end of Creation’s long day, God will re-create what God first created. We won’t get paid the wages we are due. Christ absorbed into himself the penalty of death that should have been ours.
Gabriel came to announce to Mary that, through her, God would finish the work of redemption God intended all along. In the math of human justice it simply doesn’t make sense. However, as Gabriel reassured Mary, “‘Nothing will be impossible with God,’” (1:37).
In Christ, what God promised God started. What God started in Christ, God will bring to completion. Even before this sad story of man’s inhumanity to man is finished, God, in Christ, already has shown us how it will end.
Glen Schmucker is a hospice and pediatric hospital chaplain in Fort Worth.