Thought for the Week (Archive)
The Promise of His Coming (30/11/2009)
The Promise of His Coming
The time for Advent Calendars has come round again and the count-down to Christmas has begun. For most people, the excitement of the season does not include any anticipation of the Second Coming of Jesus, and the busy-ness of the next few weeks has nothing to do with being ready for him when he comes. Yet this is the first focus of the Christian season of Advent, the theme of many hymns and prayers:
Father in heaven, who sent your Son to redeem the world and will send him again to be our judge, give us grace so to imitate him in the humility and purity of his first coming that, when he comes again, we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Those Christians who are waiting eagerly for their Lord's return can point to plenty of evidence in today's world of the signs Jesus foretold would herald it - natural disasters, wars, corruption, tyranny, persecution and perversion of the truth. But each generation has seen such signs in its own times, and waited in vain for Jesus to appear. Even in New Testament times, according to Peter's second letter chapter 3, there were sceptics saying, ‘What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again?'
Peter's answer to the sceptics is, ‘You must not forget this one thing, dear friends: a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.... Remember, the Lord's patience gives people time to be saved.'
When Jesus talked to his disciples about this, he said that even he, with his self-imposed human limitations, did not know the time-scale of God's plan. But he warned them, as both Paul and Peter warn us, to be ready at all times, because ‘The day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief.' Unexpectedly, but certainly not furtively. There won't be any room for uncertainty, we are told, because ‘every eye will see him' when he comes as Judge, in great power and glory.
Meanwhile, there is a very practical aspect to the waiting: ‘And so, dear friends,' says Peter, ‘while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to live peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. Serve and honour God by the way you live.' Whether we are longing for Jesus' Second Coming, or find it difficult and disturbing to visualise, this is advice which we all can heed, and which should keep our preparations for celebrating his First Coming from descending into panic or excess.
(Quotations from NLT and CEV)
Heather Williamson, Reader at St Andrew's Malvern