December 24, 2018

Advent 2018

"The Second Advent"


Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day

your Lord will come.  (Matthew 24:42)


For fifteen centuries or more, Christians have been marking the birth of Jesus with scripture readings, prayer, music, and celebration.  The scriptures for Advent are taken from prophecy, praise, and the gospel accounts of the birth and life of Jesus.  While the Incarnation is front and center in most of our minds during this time, it's the other Advent promise that's been tugging at my sleeve this year--the Second Coming of Christ.  Truly this is the season of great expectations!


To be truthful, I haven't always found the idea of the Second Coming so compelling.  I'm old enough to have heard some overly vivid sermons about Jesus's return--sermons that made me reluctant to look out of the window in the middle of the night, lest I see Jesus in the clouds and be found wanting.  The scriptures about the Second Coming are not easy to understand.  And let's face it:  the Second Coming carries some baggage because of those who appropriate the great promise of the end of time and Christ's return for their own muddled purposes.  "Dispensational premillennialism" is not a biblical term, by the way, and neither is "the rapture," which has become something of an industry lately.  No wonder a friend of mine exclaimed a few years back, "The Second Coming is part of Advent?  Are you sure?"


Despite these complexities, the promise of the Second Coming is profoundly significant to our faith.  The assurance of Christ's return has given Christians hope and purpose through the ages.  Eugene Peterson, who was a pastor, professor, and Bible translator (The Message), has written that believing in the promise of the Second Coming takes the "clutter" out of our lives and focuses our attention on "living forward in joyful expectancy."  Anticipating Christ's return gives us meaning and direction.  As I think of it, the Second Advent is a call to roll up our sleeves, to be mindful, and to work for Kingdom principles of justice, fairness, and compassion. 


During the days of Advent, God invites us anew to be both Incarnational and Second Coming people.  We live betwixt and between two great promises.  This year as a congregation, we also wait, betwixt and between.  One chapter in the life of our church has ended, and we will soon begin another.  I wonder what special mission God has for us now.  What new thing will God work in us?  How can we be the light of Christ in our community and beyond?  May the God of hope and promise give us strength and courage in the days ahead.  Grant us the vision to recognize Jesus the Risen Christ in the beauty of the sunrise, in the smile of a friend, in the eyes of a homeless man in the square.  Thy kingdom come!          

-- Ashley Williams


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