Musician Alanna Glover reflects on Mary’s song and the hope we share in Jesus' birth.
For our last Advent 2023 devotional, Gershon Nimbalker reflects on the transcendent hope and joy of Jesus’ birth into our common home.
Transcendent Joy in Our Common Home
After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Today marks my daughter’s first Christmas. Her middle name is Joy, which she takes from my wife’s grandmother. The name fits her well and this Christmas is certainly all the more joyous with her in it.
In Luke 2:21, we encounter the moment when Jesus takes his name. It’s a moment that captures the wonder and mystery of Advent. On one hand, we witness Jesus’ transcendence and divine purpose. Jesus, we are reminded, was given His name – not by human parents – but by an angel before he was conceived. A name that means saviour; a name that was to be His vocation; and one that was full of prophetic significance.
On the other hand, however, as Jesus enters into our common home, He does not simply descend from on high. But He is born – a baby boy - into a specific earthly context. He is grounded and connected to the law and history of Israel. Jesus takes His name and is circumcised on the eighth day after His birth, as was the Jewish custom for boys.
Jesus’ presence in our common home is transcendent and grounded. Fully divine and fully human.
I think about the world that my daughter has been born into. This may be our common home, but it so often feels like we are collectively making a mess of it. War and conflict are killing thousands of people and displacing millions. The planet itself is being pushed beyond its limit. Gender based violence remains endemic, and in Australia, it seems like the work of reconciliation with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters has just taken a backward step. On constitutional recognition at least, it’s likely that we’ve just kicked the can down to her generation to deal with. It’s easy for joy to give way to despair.
This passage reminds me though, that God enters into the mess. Jesus enters history as a member of a community that was bristling under the burden of occupation and oppression.
God chooses to make His home, at this time, with this people, and in doing so, transform their experience. The salvation, however, that Jesus’ birth heralds and His name alludes to, does not come through the violent overthrow of their occupiers that was expected, but turns out to be something altogether more surprising, radical, and gracious. And the much hoped-for salvation He brings is not just for Israel but for all of creation.
Just as Jesus embodies these seeming opposites of transcendence and groundedness, so too does His salvation.
Jesus’ salvation is transcendent – it is a vision of how all things will be. A renewed world where all flourish and experience shalom. The Kingdom of God (John 10:10, Luke 4:18-19).
But it is also grounded and connected to each of us, now, intertwined with our common humanity. It involves us all being transformed by Jesus into who God has created us to be - people of the Kingdom - people of justice, mercy and faith, people of unbounded love (Matt 5:43-48, 23:23, 25:31-46).
How much more will our common home look like the Kingdom of God when we look more like Jesus?
As I reflect on this question, I find a path from despair back to joy. I know God will renew all things, and I also know that through working with Him now, we can see that renewal begin to break through. The beauty of heaven, bubbling up into our common home.
It is joy for the world, because Jesus has come. This Christmas I will no doubt be finding joy in the coos and cuddles of my daughter, but I won’t be averting my gaze from the pain and mess in our common home. While I will feel the sadness of this brokenness, in the transcendent hope of Advent, I’ll find joy bubbling up here too.
Gershon Nimbalker is the National Director of Common Grace and founder of Sojourners Social Change Consultants. He has more than 15 years of experience working in advocacy, policy, and research, as well as leading and growing grass roots movements to campaign on issues of social justice. Gershon lives on the lands of Awabakal peoples in Newcastle, NSW with his young family.
This devotional is the last in a series of daily reflections for Advent 2023. This year's series reflected on the longing, hope, and beauty of God’s ‘Common Home’ being realised, revealed, and renewed through the birth of Jesus.
We pray this series has blessed you in this season of Advent.