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"Truly He taught us to love one another / His law is love and His gospel is peace / Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother / And in His name all oppression shall cease"
Let us begin this joyful journey through our favorite Christmas Carols and the lyrics which cause our spirits to soar and our hearts to rise up. O Holy Night is a song that builds and reaches such a crescendo that the listener is often physically and emotionally stirred by its sheer magnificence. While there are many poignant and awe-inducing lyrics in this masterpiece of art and truth, we will focus on two lines from the third stanza which have gained growing significance in our modern milieu.
"Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace.”
On the night, when Christ was born, divine love entered into a broken and sinful humanity with humble radiance. Jesus is God and God is love. He taught His disciples to love one another in the same selfless and servant-hearted way as He loved us. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34. Jesus’ greatest commandment was that we would love God and love our neighbors; His greatest prayer is that His followers would be united as one, just as He and His Heavenly Father are one. "I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one.” John 17:21. This Gospel of peace that they hymn writer pens is a message of good news, that God and man can now be reconciled through Christ. “All of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.” 2 Corinthians 5:18. We have been given a command to love like Christ and a message of peace through Christ.
On the whole, we are not holding up our end of the arrangement. Forget what is happening in the world for a moment, and look within the Church. Even better, look within yourself. Division, anger, bitterness, vitriol, cynicism and distrust have found comfortable residence in our hearts and minds. We quickly label, cancel and shun our brothers and sisters who have landed differently in their political, theological and social justice positions than us. We run to our echo chambers to affirm our self-righteous moral glow and prideful virtue signaling instead of clothing ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience as God’s chosen people are meant to do (Colossians 3:12). Before we can ever rightly address the injustice in our society, we must first repent for how blatantly we have disobeyed Christ’s most cherished commands. Indeed, it is a humbled church, not an indignant church which will carry forth the warm flame of justice into this cold, bitter world. It is a repentant church, not a self-righteous church which will break the chains of oppression throughout our world.
"Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; and in His name all oppression shall cease.”
Many people and organizations have laid claim to a mission of justice. Like “love," the word “justice" has been hijacked by many who actively and openly oppose the Prince of Peace. Yet, the words of the songwriter have never rung more true; it is only in His name, the name of Jesus, that all oppression shall cease. “The Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ.” Galatians 3:22. There is no hope of ceasing “all oppression” without Christ. To align, partner or support any organization, movement, party or person that does not pursue justice in the name (and for the glory) of Jesus will only result in trading one injustice and form of oppression for another. Jesus has come to set us truly free and true freedom flows from Christ and His truth; “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free... So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:31-32 & 36.
We must fight for the freedom and justice of those who are enslaved and oppressed. Our tactics and allegiances, however, are not of this world. We break the chains of slavery by no longer seeing slaves, but seeing brothers. We cease oppression when we proclaim the light of His glory and power evermore over this present darkness. It is the Gospel of peace and the law of love which defines our motivations, determines our message and directs our methods. As citizens of a heavenly Kingdom, we seek first the Kingdom and righteousness of God as the very means for fulfilling the dream that “justice roll down like a river, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24
Christ is the Lord! Our weary world must once again rejoice in this good news of love and peace. May you experience the thrill of hope and may your soul feel its worth again. It is always darkest before the dawn and the new and glorious morn of His appearing is imminent. A day is coming, when we will all fall on our knees and praise His name forever!
"Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. Then God gave Christ the highest place and honored his name above all others. So at the name of Jesus everyone will bow down, those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. And to the glory of God the Father everyone will openly agree, 'Jesus Christ is Lord!’” (Philippians 2:8-11)