As Advent is humming along and a sweet aroma is filling the air, don’t miss the urgency as well – don’t miss the riptide just below the surface – for there isn’t one Advent, there are two – and the second will be compelling – no one will miss it.
I had the rare privilege of entering a little classroom last week and spending time with seven young men who are in the midst of a “gap year” program. We spent three mornings together in the Scriptures and in the themes and big ideas of Casa Viva. I absolutely loved it – it stretched way back to classrooms of long ago and stirred something within me.
All that to say, we spent time in Matthew 25 – as you know, the Parable of the Talents is a text that has woven itself in and around my life and work for quite some time now. I was reminded again that we simply do not want to be found with nothing more than a hole in the ground and buried gifts. What you are holding in your hands is meant to be used, to be poured out, to be given away again and again and again – live the Kingdom, don’t hold back.
Through a different avenue came this text – Matthew 10 verse 34 – “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” This is urgency and clarity bundled together – this is the sweet babe in the manger dividing families and “cozy domestic arrangements” as Peterson says in the Message.
And then the story in Luke 12 – When the Master Shows Up – verses 15 to 48 – “Keep your shirts on; keep the lights on! Be like house servants waiting for their master to come back from his honeymoon, awake and ready to open the door when he arrives and knocks. Lucky the servants whom the master finds on watch! He’ll put on an apron, sit them at the table, and serve them a meal, sharing his wedding feast with them. It doesn’t matter what time of the night he arrives; they are awake – and so blessed!”
And then finally from our Advent devotions in the evening – an essay by J.B. Phillips – “The Dangers of Advent”.
As a translator of the New Testament I find in it no support whatever for the belief that one day all evil will be eradicated from the earth, all problems solved, and health and wealth be every man’s portion! Even among some Christians such a belief is quite commonly held, so that the “second advent” of Christ is no more and no less than the infinite number of “comings” of Christ into men’s minds. Of course, no one would deny that there are millions of such “comings” every year – but that is not what the Christian Church believes by the second advent of Christ; and it is most emphatically not what any writer of the New Testament ever meant in foretelling his second coming.
The New Testament is indeed a book full of hope, but we may search it in vain for any vague humanist optimism. The second coming of Christ, the second irruption of eternity into time, will be immediate, violent and conclusive. The human experiment is to end, illusion will give way to reality, the temporary will disappear before the permanent, and the king will be seen for who he is. The thief in the night, the lightning flash, the sound of the last trumpet, the voice of God’s archangel – these may all be picture-language, but they are pictures of something sudden, catastrophic, and decisive. By no stretch of the imagination do they describe a gradual process.
Listen for the hum, pay attention to the aroma – and get your “house” in order – keep the lights on, be ready – no one will miss it the second time.
Praying for each of you in this Advent season – keep me posted on your plans and send me photos for my office bulletin board!