7 So welcome each other, in the same way that Christ also welcomed you, for God’s glory. 8 I’m saying that Christ became a servant of those who are circumcised for the sake of God’s truth, in order to confirm the promises given to the ancestors, 9 and so that the Gentiles could glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
Because of this I will confess you among the Gentiles, and I will sing praises to your name.
10 And again, it says, Rejoice, Gentiles, with his people.
11 And again, Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and all the people should sing his praises.
12 And again, Isaiah says, There will be a root of Jesse, who will also rise to rule the Gentiles. The Gentiles will place their hope in him.
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:7-13, CEB
Michael Gorman in his book, The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant voices the ideas I’ve been trying to communicate better than I ever could when he writes, “Christ’s death effected the new covenant, meaning specifically the creation of a covenant community of forgiven and reconciled disciples, inhaibted and empowered by the Spirit to embody a new-covenant spirituality of cruciform loyalty to God and love for others, thereby peaceably participating in the life of God and in God’s forgiving, reconciling, and covenanting mission to the world.”
Here’s what I think he means in real-world language. God’s big picture plan is to create a group of people who live their lives together, in a community defined by God’s forgiveness and grace, transformed and led by God’s spirit. The life of that spirit-led community is defined by love of God and neighbor. We enact that love by committing to live graceful, peaceful lives, willing to forgive and hold each other accountable to our common vision for a life of faith.
Jesus’ death makes that kind of community possible. In fact, that is the essential thing that he died to create. How does his death do all that? The answer to that question is less clear. Even the Bible does not spell out specifically how this is accomplished (at least, not as clearly as we might like). But the bottom line is this: Jesus came as part of a plan to create a group of people on earth to live out God’s vision for life in a world where we simply don’t see enough of it.
So, I’m thankful for Christmas. I’m thankful to live and participate in/with a community who I believe does live in graceful, peaceful ways, who are committed to acts of forgiveness and the complicated nature of learning to love both God and neighbor.
I’m proud to be where I am, where people teach me, through showing me, who Christ is. I’m proud to live in a community of people who truly live out what he died to create.