Sermon for Advent 2: The Beautiful Paradox

By Revd George Mwaura

A true story from my Professor of Systematic Theology in Cambridge: While marking an end-of-term paper, he came across a note written by one of the students that read like this: ‘God only knows the answer to this question, sir; I have no clue. Merry Christmas.’ The professor awarded the student zero marks and returned the paper with his own note that read like this: ‘God gets an A; you get an F. Happy New Year!’

I do not want to downplay any serious study of God’s Word. However, the comment by the student bears much truth and humility. Because, try as we might to study the Scriptures, God’s nature, character and his actions will always remain hidden and a mystery to our limited minds. Apart from what God chose to reveal to us and is recorded in the Bible, we as humans would know very little about God and his ways. His actions – like sending a baby to save humanity – remain a complete paradox.

Now, those of you following the Advent study will have come across the word ‘paradox’. A paradox is a great truth expressed in contradictory terms. This week, the head of MI6 said that for the organisation to continue being secret, it must be transparent. That is a paradox! Other theological examples of a paradox are, for example, when we say, we see the unseen, we have freedom in his chains, we rule when we serve, or we win by yielding and dying is living. Divine paradoxes like these ones are the building blocks for our theological lives and growth. They are experienced where the righteousness of God intersects the weakness of humanity. Without paradoxes, there would be no Christianity. For, when Heaven touched earth, a Living Paradox was born in a manger in Bethlehem.

Born during the rule of a Roman dictator, Jesus posed a paradox in himself. You see, the Israelites anticipated a ruler and a king as the Messiah. A warrior figure, like King David, who would come and help lead a revolution to kick the wretched Romans out. But instead, the Messiah was born in a cattle shed at the back of a remote motel in Bethlehem of Judah to fulfil the prophesy in Micah that said that even though Bethlehem was the least of Judah’s clans, out of it God would raise a king who would rule over all Israel.

In Palestine at that time, as indeed in all the Roman Empire except North Africa, there was what we refer to as Pax Romana or Roman peace: a state of comparative tranquillity throughout the Mediterranean world which had lasted from the reign of Caesar Augustus to the reign of Marcus Aurelius. But while peace was mandated by Caesar, many groups in Palestine at this time had hidden revolutionary aspirations. You can then imagine the horror when instead of a knight in shining armour riding from the North to come and vanquish the Romans, the Jews got a baby for a king: a sweet, cuddly baby born to a peasant family from Galilee. While Caesar continued to reign from a throne, Jesus’ royal crib was a bale of hay. Since then, Christ has remained a paradox.

Today, just like the Israelites, we have our own expectations and anticipations of how God should be moving or acting in our lives. Quite often, we pray for spiritual and physical healing or financial stability, but are left scratching our heads in disbelief when God does not protect, provide, or produce the results we expect. In this respect, God continues to prove that no matter how advanced our knowledge of him is, it cannot and will not contain him. This realisation forces us to re-evaluate our expectations of God and demands that we unshackle God and let God be God.

It is perhaps helpful to know that God is not meant to be fully understood or described. Yet he stoops down from his heavenly throne to wipe our tears, forgive our sins, and dwell among us. He sent his only Son to redeem the world by ruling from a cross and not an earthly throne. You see, sin is the greatest enemy of the human race, and Jesus was born to free us from the slavery and guilt of sin. He was born to free humanity from the chains of injustice, economic inequality and political corruption.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians: My grace is all you need. In other words, God’s power works best in our weakness; now that is a perfect paradox, won’t you agree? Therefore, when life becomes hard, and trust me it will, remember, you are a living paradox, and give thanks to God for the strength and grace which he has placed inside you.

The paradox of the baby born in Bethlehem, long ago, teaches us several lessons. First, we should not judge things by appearance, because God hid his greatest gift in a tiny child: the gift of salvation! Two, we should not judge an end by its beginning, because the babe in the manger will one day return in full glory to judge the living and the dead. Three, we should make room in our hearts for others, so that we can find room for Jesus. Finally, by reaching out and witnessing to those who need to hear about Jesus, we can experience Christ even more meaningfully.

As we celebrate Advent and Christmas seasons, let us be truly thankful to Jesus for giving up the riches and splendour of heaven. for coming to dwell among us, and to die for our sins, so that we may find forgiveness and reconciliation with God. As Paul tells the church in Philippi…Christ who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but humbled himself taking the very nature of a servant. What a beautiful paradox, a servant yet a King!


Happy Advent!

Happy Advent!