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Waiting For , , ,

Web posted on November 30, 2019


Waiting for . . .

Sunday the First of December is the first Sunday in Advent 2019. That's the start of the Church's liturgical year, which begins with the announcement to Mary and Joseph of the coming of Jesus the Messiah.

The Messiah is supposed to bring in the Kingdom of God. But a glance at any news journal (including this one!) is enough to make you question whether Jesus really achieved that. Well, he did, you know, by his death and resurrection. But that was only Phase One.

So every Advent there's also this overlapping announcement that Jesus the Messiah is coming again. Phase Two. This time as Judge and Savior, to raise the dead and establish his eternal Kingdom.

That's what Christians believed in the First Century when they wrote the New Testament. But 2000 years later, such a hope must recall Samuel Beckett's play "Waiting for Godot", where two hapless fellows stand on a street corner waiting for the man who never comes. It's theatre of the absurd, and to some folks the Christian hope of Jesus' return must seem equally absurd. It seemed so even to some folks in the First Century.

So the apostle Peter cautioned his readers that "in the latter days scoffers will come saying, `Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died,all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!'. But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance."

The Bible pictures the day of Jesus' second coming in glorious imagery. Powerful, majestic, and full of assurance. But imagery is not geography or physics. It speaks of things beyond our knowing. So the apostle John tells us to be sure of what we do know, to be aware of what we don't, and not (I would add) to discredit the gospel by failing to recognize the difference. He writes:

"Beloved, we are God's children now; but what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he [Jesus] is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is" (1 John 3:2).

In a world that often seems absurd, a world where "all things continue [more or less] as they were from the beginning", you would be right to wonder whether Christians, too, are not waiting for a Godot who never comes. The answer to that is not easy, but it is simple: the first Christians (in one instance about 500 of them, according to the apostle Paul) actually saw Jesus after his resurrection, and many even today claim to have met him in a mystical experience that they did not initiate. So as Christians again prepare to celebrate the Advent of Jesus the Messiah, have a second look at the absurdity of any day's news, and consider the possibility that the absurdist world-view may be the one that omits him.

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