The Day of Reconciliation

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Today South Africans celebrate the Day of Reconciliation. In the past, this day marked important events for very different people-groups: the Afrikaners and the ANC. It was celebrated as Dingaan’s Day on which the Afrikaners celebrated their victory over the Zulu nation in 1838, and it was marked as a significant day in 1961 when the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe, was officially launched and carried out its first attacks against the Apartheid Regime. And yet today, despite the divergent origins of the day, it is celebrated as a day of reconciliation, of coming together despite differences and against the odds. It is a day of deciding and believing that we can overcome all that divides us and create a new future, together. It is a reminder of the miracle in which we exist as a nation – one we often take for granted – but one that holds so much promise for those who continue to have faith in a shared future.

Our country’s divided and painful past means that in many ways our nation is still divided and so we must do the ongoing and often painful work of continual reconciliation. The role of the church is more crucial, now than ever, in bridging divides, in breaking down barriers and offering healing and hope. We all have a critical role to play in healing the wounds of the past and choosing reconciliation and the coming together of the oppressor and the oppressed.

Christmas time reminds us that God Himself is the author of reconciliation. He bridged the unimaginable divide between God and humanity, perfection and sin, to reconcile people to Himself. He came to give us a fresh start – to make us new and to restore relationship with us. And so, we are reminded, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)

Those who have been reconciled with God and made new by Him are given the task of bringing His reconciliation to the world. We have the role of holding onto the belief that all things can be reconciled if people are willing to come together and make a new way. New beginnings are still possible if we are committed to receiving them and creating them.

The joy of good news

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“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” – Luke 2:10-11

The angel brought news of great joy to the shepherds all those years ago on the first Christmas. The Jews had been hearing about the promise of the Messiah for centuries and here was the announcement of His coming! It was given not to those we might have expected – not to kings or nobles – but to the ordinary shepherds. The good news of Christ still comes to ordinary people. His joy and peace is for everyone… for the overlooked, the underrated, the seemingly insignificant, because we are all significant in God’s eyes. He brings His love and hope to everyone, even those filled with pride, anger, revenge, bitterness and sin.

His message was one of joy then and it is one of joy now. True joy is available in Christ. So stop worrying about everything. Trust in the promise of God’s good news. He delivers on His promises. Don’t diminish God’s power by worrying about things. Joy that comes from God is something that is beyond our circumstances. Nothing can crush the joy that comes from Jesus.

The sinful woman who entered into an assembly of the religious and found grace (Luke 7:36-50) reminds us that Jesus’ message is one of joy even for the irreligious and the sinful – even for those will questionable pasts.  She was forgiven much and therefore, had a great deal of gratitude. Do we live aware of how much mercy we have received and therefore, rejoice in God’s grace?

Countless misfits in Scripture remind us that the message of Christ is good news for those who have always been unpopular, left out and left behind. No matter what the world may have told you, you are the apple of God’s eye and He delights in you (Psalm 17:8).

The message of Jesus is one joy for those who are held captive – those who are chained by addiction, by fear, by hatred, by unforgiveness… Jesus releases us and sets us free (Luke 4:18; Mark 5:1-20).

His message of joy is also for those who have faced prejudice and discrimination. The Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-26) reminds us that Jesus sought out and ministered to even the rejected and marginalised. He drank from her cup and then offered her Himself as Living Water. For those who have felt the sting and pain of prejudice, there is joy in knowing that we are all accepted as the children of God, no matter who we are.

When everyone else is tied up in what’s happening in the world, those who know Jesus can have a joy within them because the message of joy the angels brought to the shepherds for all of humankind is a reality in our hearts.

Don’t get caught in the negative cycle of what’s going on around you. Rejoice in the Lord. Find your hope and your joy in Him. Be an agent of joy in the world.