ADVENT A TIME FOR ‘I WONDER’
By JANICE SIX
It occurred to me that even though we define Advent as a time of preparing for the coming of Christ, the majority of our attention focuses on that which has already taken place: Christ’s birth, and Christ’s ongoing presence with us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, rather than preparing for the coming of Christ, we are more accurately preparing to remember the coming of Christ.
In other words, we proclaim: “Christ is coming!” but almost without exception, the only story we tell is the beautiful old, old story—the story of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus; of magi and shepherds, stars and sheep; a story of prophecy fulfilled; the story of a promise kept; a story that evokes gratitude and praise. But what about the rest of the Advent message–the part about Christ’s return? This, too, is what we celebrate this time of year, but how often do we hear, tell, or imagine that which is yet-to-come?
I, like many of you have either participated in or seen numerous Christmas pageants over the years, but I’ve never known of one to include a futuristic scene portraying the second coming of Christ. Can you imagine how glorious this could be? The sanctuary goes dark and silent. Then we hear a faint rumbling of the timpani—a rumble that builds into a full roll! Suddenly the trumpets blast and all are engulfed in a cloud of white as the choir of angels breaks forth in song. And somehow a walkway of light streams from the spire, and as if out of nowhere there bursts forth one who depicts Christ Victorious—surrounded by a sea of radiant men, women, and children of every ethnicity…singing, dancing, rejoicing. Then a loud voice from on high proclaims: “Behold, I am making all things new. Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true: It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Surely, this would be…the Alpha and the Omega of all Advent pageants!
The point I’m hoping to make is that aside from the Advent liturgy in which we proclaim both Christ’s birth and Christ’s return, we, the church, seldom stray too far from the manger. I wonder why. I also wonder what difference it would make if we spent as much time anticipating and imagining the Second Coming as we do reenacting the first coming of Christ. I wonder what it would be like to step outside the stable or cave—drive out to the edge of town, get out of the car; throw back our heads and marvel at the heavens, trusting in the real possibility of catching a glimpse of the velvet sky being ripped open to reveal a stream of radiant light, illuminating the path of the church triumphant as it ushers Christ into our midst in all his glory! I wonder what effect it would have on us in ordinary time if once a year we were reminded that until Christ comes again, all time is Advent.
I wonder if we would decorate our homes with maidens holding oil lamps, and feature streams of sparkling water running through a jewel-studded city if we eagerly anticipated Christ’s second coming. I wonder if we’d hurry up and make peace with each other if we gave much thought to the possibility of Christ coming again in the twinkle of an eye–like a thief in the night. I wonder if we’d make sure that everyone had plenty to eat, and all children had shoes for their feet, and no one went to bed cold or afraid, if we knew that any day we’d have to stand before Christ and answer why not?
I wonder what difference it would make in how we live today if we expected the inevitable return of our Savior and King to be sooner rather than later. Would we laugh more, work less, go ahead and say what’s on our hearts, take more risks, dance all night, share all that we have, pray without ceasing, sing in a crowd, skip backwards—just because we can? Would we be willing to share our tears, fears, regrets, and best lessons learned with someone we barely know if there was a chance it might help them in any way? I wonder what it would be like to live each day knowing that it really could be the last. I wonder if we anticipated the coming of Christ to be soon, would we accept the present as the gift it is?
Suggested scripture reading – Revelation 21:1-6, 22:17
Janice Six is associate pastor of First Central Presbyterian Church