As 2012 draws to a close, I wonder what the abiding memories of this past year will be. Especially when we will recall events and particular individuals who will automatically spring to mind… The London Olympics – Jessica Ennis; the Tour de France – Bradley Wiggins; the US Open Tennis – Andy Murray; the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations – well, that’s obvious… or is it?
Such individual moments achieved in time and space had the power to draw us together, to watch (even from a distance), to the extent that we have enjoyed and celebrated much together this past year. Names went into the record books and the annals of history grew that bit thicker. Yet our culture quickly moves us on waiting for the next ‘big’ experience or ‘event’ or ‘celebrity’ that will enable us to enjoy a jubilee together.
The word ‘jubilee’ has grabbed me for lots of reasons. With connotations of celebration and rejoicing, the jubilee concept is rooted in the Bible as a special year or anniversary to be marked every 50th year (Read Leviticus 25). Stemming from the Hebrew word yobhel, (meaning ‘ram’s horn’, which was used as a trumpet to proclaim the Jubilee) the key reason for jubilation was the emancipation of slaves, land and property to be restored to the owners, and agricultural land was to be left untilled. We can imagine the expectation and thrill for so many as they anticipated the year of jubilee every 600 months!
As I reflect on our 2012 jubilee celebrations here in Britain, even as an unashamed pro-Royal supporter who loves and respects our Queen and enjoyed so many facets of that week in early June, I am left contrasting the Diamond Jubilee with those deeper Bible themes of jubilee, justice and hope: a pageant of a 1,000 boats on the Thames in the pouring rain, the concert outside Buckingham Palace, a network of beacons, a meaningful service at St. Paul’s Cathedral (and yes, we also sang and prayed ‘God save the Queen’ at Cambray!), a carriage procession, the Queen’s iconic appearance on the balcony and a flypast. And we enjoyed our street parties, got wet, and… what then? We quickly moved on to celebrate London 2012.
If God designed a time in the pattern and structures of community life when debts were to be cancelled, slaves were freed and land was redistributed, and where society could experience some tangible liberation and rest, surely there are elements where such restoration is urgently needed in our time and culture. Yet we don’t seem to leave anything ‘untilled’ or peaceful for long enough to gain from a significant period of rest, whether every 7 or 49 months or years!
While there is a concerted effort for Royalty to get close to the people, the divide between rich and poor in our culture increases. The crowds enjoyed the jubilee celebrations, acknowledging and appreciating monarchy, while never able to truly get to know them personally or experience life-changing liberties.
All of which has led me to the theme of jubilee for this month at Cambray. Another, far more vital, Jubilee is available for each person to share in, which I have termed ‘The KING’S Jubilee’. In this, the King has come to us. Christmas is such a time that we should stop and celebrate, recognising Divine Royalty as the One who came as a baby at Bethlehem, and then grew up to articulate these amazing words fulfilling the Isaiah 61 prophecy:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Luke 4:18-19).
That is, the Year of Jubilee has come in our Lord Jesus Christ. Thankfully, he is the One who offers us freedom from the debt of our sins and a release from the ravages of evil in this life, and a spur to work for justice and freedom for all.
My prayer and hope this Christmas, is that we will hear the note of Jubilee being sounded (rather like that Hebrew horn) through our Christmas celebrations – proclaiming to many that Jesus is King of Kings and Saviour, and He is still in the business of bringing good news of great joy to everyone.
Let’s celebrate The King’s Jubilee 2012 in style!
With love from Rachel and myself, wishing you all a very happy Christmas,