Come, Then, Come

From The Network, December 2018

“Behold, I Am Coming Soon!
(Revelation 22:7)

With inward pain my heartstrings sound, my soul dissolves away;
Dear Sovereign, whirl the seasons round,
Dear Sovereign, whirl the seasons round,
And bring, and bring the promised day, and bring the promised day.
(Early American Hymn)

And so again, advent is upon us, the beginning of a new Church year and the renewing of our longing for the Promised One to come, Jesus, Immanuel, God With Us. Did you catch it? OUR LONGING!

Advent is a present activity for the Christ Community. While the culture in which we live settles in for an extended holiday celebration, we Christians are those whose advent lacks sentimentality, because the pain of waiting long for our life’s most important promise inaugurates yet another year. Israel waited for hundreds of years; we are into the thousands! Thousands, since the risen Christ left his disciples with a promise to return, since in a holy dream he said to St. John the Revelator the same. Christ has come, Christ has Risen, Christ will come again is what the early Christians said. And nothing yet has changed in this regard; this advent we are bid to say by faith the same.

So what of the choice of Jesus’ word SOON? This is what we ponder anew, and what we remember, that our Advent is not a kind of Currier and Ives remembering of the first Christmas as it is a time of deep longing for Jesus to come back, as he promised he will, and of much pain along with another year passed to threaten the diminishment of our faith – and what must be a stubborn and almost defiant unwillingness to let go of that promise, and our hope.

The early Church was sure that Christ the King would return in their lifetimes. SOON was a word that seemed to fit, to make sense. Now our sentiment seems to be sarcastic, and our waiting inactive; the truth is that time has numbed us to the promise. SOON makes little sense. We roll our eyes and say under our breath, “Sure, Okay, Whatever.” And the truth is that a SOON lasting 2,000 years makes little human sense. It’s hard to watch and wait and prepare and be ready and keep our lamps lit for so long. Maybe that’s what some hymn writers had in mind a few hundred years ago when they wrote and sang about inward pain and prayers for the SOON to happen after all.

Yet with longing, with a pleading faith, we hold out hope. Maybe this is the year! Come, then, come Lord Jesus. Blessed advent.

Peter Hawkinson

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