Only two more weeks until Christmas Day and we are still stuck in the wilderness with John the Baptist for today’s gospel reading. Yet, we are also given a prophetic glimpse of the new earth from the prophet Isaiah in today’s Old Testament reading from the Book of Isaiah.
In this reading, the redeemed relationship between God and humanity is completed. While the redemption of humanity was bought on the cross with the innocent blood of Jesus the Christ; the age of spreading the good news of God’s gift of salvation ends with the Day of Judgment. The new world for which Christ died cannot come until this age ends.
Christmas is a celebration of the beginning of Christ’s mission on earth. Today, Isaiah informs us of the fullness of Christ’s redemption. Christ’s death on the cross not only redeemed humanity, it also redeemed the consequences of humanity’s sins against God.
In the Book of Genesis, we are told the story of the destruction of the relationship between God and humanity through Adam and Eve’s disobedience of God. The consequence of their disobedience not only destroyed the communion between God and humanity; earth and all of creation was contaminated by their sin. The earth that had been declared as “good” by the Creator became a fallen world. Even the heavens were affected by humanity’s sin.
Think of the human body as all of creation and humans as the human will. If a human ingests a lethal dose of poison the entire body suffers. If an anecdote is not given in time, the human body will die. Sin is like a lethal dose of poison. When humans disobeyed God, the entire Universe was affected. Because it was humans who were the ones that brought sin into the Universe, it was only through humans that the Universe could be healed. Because of our fallen nature, we humans were unable to redeem ourselves. So the Creator (out of His love for us and the creation that had been infected by humanity’s sin) chose to intervene on our behalf. God became man and lived among us in the form of Jesus of Nazareth.
On the cross, Jesus became the embodiment of all of humanity’s sins. Because Jesus had never sinned, when He took on our sins and died in our place, He became our antidote. Through Christ, all of creation and humanity were given a second chance. An opportunity to be recreated as the Creator intended from the beginning. This re-creation was promised by God to be fulfilled in the creation of a new earth and new heavens.
The prophet Isaiah wrote down God’s promise in these words, “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.” In this new earth and new heavens, creation will be restored to what God had intended. Only this time, no evil will be allowed to contaminate this new creation. Instead, peace and love will reign. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent – its’ food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.”
However, humans are the only ones who are given a choice to accept or deny this incredible gift of salvation. The rest of creation that was contaminated with humanity’s sin was not given a choice. Only humans are given a choice, because we were created in the image of God. We can choose to live in the Kingdom of God or to remain in our sins.
The Kingdom of God began when Jesus first came to earth and will be the kingdom of the new earth and the new heavens when the old earth and heavens have passed away. Although we who are believers continue to live in a fallen world; we have been transformed spiritually into the Kingdom of God. Kingdom citizens are different from worldly citizens. Those of this world remain in bondage to sin, while kingdom dwellers have been set free from sin through the blood of the Lamb.
In St. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he reminds the believers of their new life in Christ and how they are to live as citizens in the Kingdom of God. From the New International Version, Paul writes, “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
While this may sound like a tall order, especially since temptations continue to abound in this fallen world. We are not to become discouraged, because we are not alone. We who are in Christ no longer have to overcome temptation by ourselves. It is Christ, who overcomes on our behalf, even when we fail. And we will falter and stumble as long as we remain in this corruptible body of flesh. Because the Apostle Paul understood the weakness of the flesh, he encouraged the believers of Thessalonia and now us with these words:
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”