Growing up as I did in a non-liturgical church, I pretty much missed any significance to Advent. December was upon us? Christmas is coming! Full-on preparation for a kids Christmas program, signing of Christmas carols, buying presents, etc.
No contemplation of the emotions and yearning for the coming of Christ. No recognition of the hunger and anticipation of the Jewish people for the Messiah to come. No thoughts about how we look for the kingdom of God to come to us today.
Nope, just, 'Yippee, here comes Christmas!'
I think the contemplation of Advent is one of the reasons I am growing to appreciate the liturgical calendar more.
I want to meditate some this year on the coming of the kingdom in our world.
It always is a good time for Jesus to come.
The world is always in need of the peace, love, justice, and relationship that Jesus came to bring.
Whether it was the centuries of build-up before His birth, or the daily grind we find ourselves in today, the world can use a lot more of the presence of Christ's kingdom.
One of the big themes of Advent is Hope.
Pain and injustice without the possibility of deliverance induce misery.
Darkness and death without the promise of light and life promote despair.
Evil and hate and inhumanity are demoralizing unless there is the hope for things to change.
That's why the prophets' promise of the coming Messiah kept the Jews alive duirng years of agony.
A similar hope helps us survive the emotional drain of living. We see wars and disasters, sickness and poverty, hunger and thirst, and yearn for deliverance.
For some Christians, the hope is focused on the Second Coming of Christ at the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it. Their hope is based on escaping, leaving it all behind to be destroyed.
But I think we have a much more imminent hope.
Jesus arrived on the scene 2000 years ago, inaugurating his kingdom. That kindgom carries on today in us, we who choose to allow his rule in our lives and actions.
We don't wait for his kingdom to start, we pray and act for it to expand in power and influence. We don't look forward to a moment in the future when we get to escape and leave it behind, we get to be an active part in seeing its influence grow today. Our salt is permeating, our lights are shining, the kingdom is advancing.
So this hope doesn't take our attention away from the misery around us, it helps us see that we can and are making a difference now.
That anticipation and yearning is just as aware of the need, it just is more immediate. It sees ways of effecting change, of fighting for justice, of feeding the hungry.
That hope still sees that it is the coming of Jesus that brings change. It just recognizes that he makes a difference as he comes through us.
Come thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a Child and yet a King.
Born to reign in us for ever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
“ 'I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.'
Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me--you did it to me.' ”(Matthew 25:35, 36, 40 The Message)
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