He’s got the whole world in his hands?: Christmas Hope in a Co-Vid World

Many of us enjoyed singing the spiritual “He’s got the whole world in his hands” to conclude the ‘Lift Your Spirits’ concert recently. He’s got you and me brother, sister, the tiny little baby, the whole world in his hands. Really?

Christ the King? The final Sundays of the church year honour Christ in all Creation, and then Christ the King – but what does it mean to affirm the sovereignty of Christ in a world that has been ravaged this year by Covid 19? It can be very hard to feel that Jesus has ‘got this’ when all around us there seems to be  rampaging disease, political turmoil and shenanigans, increasingly dramatic weather events exacerbated by climate change and festering conflict and violence in our world. 2020 is a year that many of us have struggled to navigate with the anxieties of Covid lockdowns and precautions, economic ramifications on the job and housing front and concerns for family and friends in other parts of the world.

Lion and the Lamb: As we pray the familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer ‘Your kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven’, just what sort of kingdom are we praying for? Some of our readings in Advent come from the mysterious book of Revelation, full of apocalyptic imagery and symbolism, and yet casting a vision of hope for the early church, persecuted and suffering. John’s vision in Revelation is of Jesus, the reigning Lion of Judah (Rev. 5:5), but he is also the Lamb of God slain (Rev 5:6,8,12), who gave his life in costly self-sacrificial love. The Lion, symbol of power and authority, is matched by the powerless Lamb. God’s power is expressed supremely in the ability to give up power, to enter this world and identify with us as a tiny, vulnerable baby, a Lamb born in a stable, in humility and poverty.

New Creation: God’s willingness to enter our world in Jesus Christ, and to share our humanity with all its pains and suffering, its mortality and death is then vindicated in Jesus’ resurrection and promise to bring new life and new creation. This is the enterprise we are called to share in as the body of Christ on earth now, to work towards building new heavens and a new earth, that one day life on earth might indeed be ‘as it is in heaven’.

That task will be different for each generation but the images of Revelation 21 and 22 ring true with the challenges our world faces. We long for ‘the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb’ (Rev 22:1) and the ‘tree of life…producing its fruit, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations’ (Rev 22:2).

Death No More: Perhaps above all in a year when people have had to face the reality of disease and death in a way from which many of us had been cushioned, we long that God ‘will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.’ (Rev. 21: 4).

Pictures of Christ the King often show him holding an orb with a cross on top, a symbol of sovereignty but also of the world God loves, the world Christ died for. Christ still holds our world in safe hands. We may not know what 2021 holds, but we do know the God whose ‘steadfast love never ceases, whose mercies never come to an end’ (Lamentations 3:22).

Jenny Wilkens