Advent. The season of waiting. But what are we waiting for? If my ten-month-old could talk, he could tell you. Every evening as he fights sleep my only recourse is to sing the Taize song Wait For The Lord until his eyelids grow heavy and sleep comes:
Wait for the Lord, Whose day is near;
Wait for the Lord, be strong, take heart.
When you are waiting for something wonderful then your waiting is full of anticipation and hope. If we are waiting for something awful–punishment, destruction, doom–then time drags and our hearts fill with dread.
In Christ’s first advent, Jesus came to fulfill the hopes of Israel. Those who knew how to read the signs or were let in on God’s secret through dreams, visions, and angelic visitations, anticipated the coming of Jesus, excited Yahweh’s salvation was at hand.
Sometimes when we talk about Christ’s second Advent, our words are twinged more with dread than hope. We imagine Jesus coming home after a long day at the office, bringing down the hammer on his children for their behavior while he was a way (“Just wait until your Father gets home!”). But Jesus’ return is our only hope. It means God hasn’t left us to our own devices
Recently Presidential hopeful Ben Carson sat down with Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn to talk about his faith and candidacy. Carson is a Seven Day Adventist, so has a particular theological viewpoint about End Times, the afterlife and Christ’s return. One particular soundbite bothered me. The good doctor told Quinn his beliefs about the apocalypse won’t influence his presidency. Really? You believe Jesus is coming back and bringing his Kingdom in fullness and it won’t affect your presidency? That is a sad statement but not totally fair to what Carson actually believes. He also says he strives to live his life like Jesus is coming back tomorrow, which I think implies that his view of the ‘apocalypse’ has a positive impact on what kind of president Carson would be.
Rightly so. The values and priorities of Christ’s coming kingdom should impact our life now, if Christ’s kingdom is our hope, if we are hoping for the peace of Christ, for the cessation of war, for all sorrow, sadness and suffering to cease, if we are anticipating a New Heaven and New Earth where human beings are reconciled to one another across ethnic, cultural and socio-economic lines , where the poor are cared for and creation is stewarded well, if this is our hope, we will act like it.
We live into what we anticipate.
Here is some of what we are waiting for:
Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. (Isaiah 2:3-4)
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1–5 (NIV)
If this is what we are waiting for than everything about life now ought to be different. Waiting isn’t a passive endeavor. It is living towards our final hope. A hope which encompasses God’s renewal and restoration–“I am making everything new!”
If Jesus return is not a source of hope, but dread than we might as well just bide our time and enjoy ourselves while we still have a chance.
Our view of the apocalypse influences how we act as presidents, parents, children, neighbors, soldiers, activists, executives, cashiers, musicians, artists and software engineers. It influences everything. If it doesn’t, we don’t really believe it anyway.
Jesus is coming back. What are you waiting for?