By Virginia Holmstrom
On Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus the Messiah, whose birth made real God’s kingdom on earth. I ponder the Scripture’s mixture of tenses that describe the fullness of God’s reign on earth. Isaiah 9:2-7 is a good example of this. I read Isaiah 9 as a prophetic proclamation of the coming of God’s reign someday. But verse 6 tells me that a child has been born for us, and his authority brings justice and righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. So, again I ask, “When is the Kingdom of God coming?” For those who heard Isaiah’s voice in 700 B.C., would it come with the birth of the Messiah? For Christians today, will it happen one day when Christ comes again? Has it already begun? My question is the same question asked by the Pharisee in Luke 17:20-21: “When is the kingdom of God coming?” Jesus answered him, “The kingdom of God is among you.” Now.
With Christ in my life, and in community with others who follow Christ, then what shall be my role as a citizen of God’s reign on earth? I am startled as my eyes instantly fill with tears. The promises associated with the coming of God’s reign on earth feel so distant from the reality of life today. In the kingdom of God there is endless peace. There is justice and righteousness. There is equity for the poor. And the list goes on; Jesus frequently talked about the kingdom of God in the stories recorded by the Gospel writers.I straddle an uneasy gap between a righteous and holy realm that has already come, but not yet come. I recall the words to a Christian song from the Taizé community: “The kingdom of God is justice and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Come, Lord, and open in me the gates of your kingdom.” There is a call in those words that I cannot ignore. I cannot turn away with resignation that God will rein on earth someday in the sweet by and by.
My ministry with women and girls is dedicated to empowering women and girls to live into God’s purpose for their lives. Can you visualize with me how God’s kingdom on earth will be when women and girls in our churches, our neighborhoods, our nation, and the world are encouraged and empowered to fully and freely exercise their gifts. . . of leadership? . . . contributing their voices at peace treaty tables? . . . preaching the Gospel of Christ? . . . serving God’s people in every capacity? The time is now. Unto you, this day, a child has been born! The kingdom of God is here. Now!
Oh, God, open in us the gates of your kingdom. Amen.
Virginia Holmstrom serves as the executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.