12/02/2013 08:20 pm ET | Updated Feb 01, 2014

Born Again Jesus

Gonna lay down my burden
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside...
Ain't gonna study war no more...
Gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside...
Ain't gonna study war no more...
Gonna shake hands with the Prince of Peace
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside...
Ain't gonna study war no more.
I ain't gonna study war no more....

(From a traditional gospel song)

Christmas really seems to get old after awhile ... at least when you have celebrated as many Christmases as I have.

How many times does Jesus have to be born in a manger before the world becomes a more hospitable place for the poor, the dispossessed, and those who cannot help themselves?

How many times do the angels have to sing "Peace on Earth...the Savior Reigns,"
before people and nations stop terrorizing and killing one another?

How many times do frightened shepherds have to leave their flocks by night before people everywhere come to see Jesus and realize for themselves the promise of God's salvation?

And just how many times do wise men have to follow a star to find the newborn King before all people will recognize that Jesus is the Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

Every Advent we prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ - Emmanuel, God in the flesh, born into history and humanity to redeem and restore the people he created from the clutches of sin and evil. Then Christmas is upon us, that blessed and joyous event, Christ is born - Joy to the World the Lord is come let earth receive her King! But after Christmas, as celebratory decorations are removed and the festive lights turned off, the celebratory joy of Jesus' birth is overtaken by our return to business as usual.

Reality sets in and we realize that the birth of Jesus actually did not bring about world peace, did not stay the hands of dictators, or rescue the poorest of the suffering poor from their hunger, or turn back the fortunes of the mega-billionaires in the world. In fact, apart from being an annual commercial bonanza, Jesus' birth doesn't seem to make a dent in the real world of dirty politics, media hyperbole, the bloody fighting in Syria and the Central African Republic, or the inhumanity of sex trafficking, drug trafficking and the unnecessary imprisonment of millions of people around the world.

Yet once again we enter the season of Advent anticipating the great celebration of the birth of Jesus, Savior of humanity. Don't get me wrong - I am not down on celebrating Christmas, I love it - but where on earth is this Joy to the World? For two thousand years we've celebrated - but sometimes we wonder what's to celebrate!?

Even Jesus' disciples wondered when Jesus would make that really big difference in the world beyond just healing a few lepers, miraculously turning water into wine, multiplying bread and fish to feed hungry people one or maybe two times, being a great teacher and putting self righteous religious moralists in their place. They wondered when God's kingdom would fully come in power and when he would rescue his people and turn the imperial tables on the Roman Empire.

Today as we look at our own troubles and the troubles of the world, we also wonder in much the same way as they did, and we pray - "May your kingdom come and may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." On this another Advent of Jesus' birth, our expectations and hopes for the salvation of the world are once again brought into the light. We wait for full salvation; for the cosmic fulfillment of that which began when God became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man - a man born in ignoble and humble circumstances, a man not born to be King, but the King of Kings born as a man to emancipate life from the clutches of evil and death.

Yet we do see glimmers of God's liberating rule breaking into the world - as the lives of incorrigible men and women are being transformed, as lifelong enemies become reconciled, and as the dignity of miserable people and people in misery is being restored. The Kingdom of God is being made visible - salvation and restoration is at hand as the hungry are being nourished, as the sick are being cared for, and in thousands of other ways that followers of Jesus bring his love and hope and healing to life.

We celebrate the historical fact that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. And much greater than Advent or the Christmas celebration is the reality of Jesus being born again as you and I turn from our own pursuits to join him in proclaiming and demonstrating the good news of God's grace and love, salvation for all people. Jesus' birth was the beginning of the end for evil and death's rule of terror in human is more than just a celebration, it is a real and present truth.

There's a day coming
when the mountain of God's House
Will be The Mountain--
solid, towering over all mountains.
All nations will river toward it,
people from all over set out for it.
They'll say,"Come
let's climb God's Mountain...
He'll show us the way he works
so we can live the way we're made."
...He'll settle things fairly between nations.
He'll make things right between many peoples.
They'll turn their swords into shovels,
their spears into hoes.
No more will nation fight nation;
they won't play war anymore.
Come...let's live in the light of God.
(Excerpt from Isaiah 2:1-5 The Message)