Advent Is Coming
We are fast approaching the season of Advent. Historically, Advent is a time for looking back to the first coming of Jesus and straining forward to consider the time when Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Typically, we tend to focus in this season more on the first coming of Jesus, and in many ways this is wise. After all, Jesus’ first coming is the bedrock of our hope and the wellspring of our joy. It sustains us as we patiently wait for our coming king because the first appearing of Jesus was a divine intervention that signaled the dawning of a new day. This is why Mary’s first-born son was given the name Immanuel. God with us. God declaring his invasion into this present darkness.
But the enemy forces will not give up their territory without a fight. As much as we long for Satan to set down his weapons of darkness, deceit, hatred and death, he will wield them forcibly until Jesus casts him at last into the lake of fire. So, we live on the frontier of a coming kingdom. We are citizens of two worlds: this present evil age and the age to come.
It is challenging to live straddled between two worlds. It is not for the faint of heart. Often, we feel the tension of being pulled in two different directions, and sometimes the darkness of this age and the seeming distance of the age to come can lead us to despair. All too often, we can find ourselves thinking, “This must be all that there is. The world really is chaotic, and death really speaks the final word.”
But the summons of the gospel is to live with hope while simultaneously being fully present in a world that is passing away. To be present in this world means we face and name the darkness, despair and death that surrounds us.
Last May, I went to the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem and I overhead a mom saying to her teenage son, “Just get through this. Then we can go to lunch.” That is not being present in this world. That is looking for a way to shelter ourselves. To be present in this world is to face the darkness. It is to sit with death and deception. To name it. To say to the atrocities in our world and in our heart, “I see you and I know what you are trying to pull.”
The gospel summons us to do this work with hope. Hope that Jesus is coming. Hope that when he comes justice will roll down like mighty waters and righteousness will flow like an everlasting stream. Hope that relationships will one day be restored, and harmony will finally tell the human story. Hope that Jesus will turn the hearts of fathers back to their children and the hearts of children back to their fathers. Hope that Jesus himself will overcome the wicked and bring healing in his wings.
This hope is not found in wishful thinking about the ability of the human race to bring peace to the world. Instead, this hope is found by straining forward to consider the future coming of Jesus who inaugurates a new human race that is fully conformed to his image.
More than anything else, this Advent, I want you to experience hope. So each day of December I will post a blog that helps you to strain into the future by considering what happens when Jesus returns.
My prayer is that reflecting on Jesus’ second coming will strengthen you to continue to stand strong at the juncture of two worlds: the old world of sin, separation, darkness and death; and the world to come where the sun shines out the brighter to announce God’s risen and victorious king.
As we go through this season, remember: God’s promises never fail and the Promised One never disappoints. Jesus is coming. So keep waiting for him. Keep trusting that the darkness one day will lift. One day the resounding conclusion will come. One day we will eat and drink with our risen and conquering King!