Lamplighter & Letters: The Pastor's Pen

And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end… (Luke 1:32-33)

What a beautiful passage – and a beautiful promise. To the completely unsuspecting young maiden, Mary, the angel Gabriel proclaims the imminent coming of the one who has been promised since the days of Adam and Eve. The Son of the Most High, Jesus Christ, will come to his people and take his rightful place on the throne of David. And of his reign and his kingdom, there will be no end.

November 29 marks the first Sunday in Advent. Advent means to “draw near.” During this season, we as Christians explicitly focus and look forward to Jesus “drawing near.” Because of how the lectionary is set up, we usually imagine that this is a season simply for preparing for Christmas, when Jesus drew near the first time at his birth in Bethlehem. But, Advent is historically supposed to get us ready for Christ’s return. As Christians living in the latter days, we anticipate with joy when he will draw near to us in glory on the last day.

What happens when Jesus draws near? In the Gospels, we see that Jesus’ first coming was a time of grace, mercy, and healing. The sick were healed, the lame walked, the blind saw, sins were forgiven, and the dead were raised. Jesus came proclaiming and establishing the reign of God, a kingdom of peace and wholeness. When Jesus drew near, the effects were miraculous, and people praised and glorified God.

But not everything was glorious, was it? Peace is proclaimed at Jesus’ birth, but Herod rejects Jesus’ kingship and kills Bethlehem’s children. Glory is proclaimed, but Jesus lays in a manger for animals. Jesus preaches the Gospel, but the Pharisees violently oppose it. What good is the proclamation of peace if division follows? What good is glory if people reject it? What good is a king who wears only a crown of thorns and is hung on a cross by those who would rebel against and reject his kingship?

Things aren’t much different today, are they? Through the Church, the proclamation of peace continues to go out into the world. Yet the rulers of this world continue to reject the lordship of Jesus in all sorts of ways, giving their subjects license to live libertine lives, to follow after all manner of greed and covetousness, and even to kill children and other vulnerable and helpless people. In the Church, the glory of Jesus continues to be seen in lowly ways, as Jesus comes among us by the power of his Spirit through the spoken Word and under water, bread, and wine. Yet, the world seeks after wealth and prosperity, believing that if you only believe enough, you too can be successful and powerful. Those sent by God in the Church continue to proclaim the Gospel, but many reject it, and some even violently oppose it, killing Christians en masse in places like northern Nigeria and all across the Muslim world. When we look around, we often see what looks like the opposite of what the reign of the Prince of Peace should be – division and murder instead of peace, sin and wretchedness instead of glory, pandemic and death instead of healing and restoration. And when we see the reality of this world, we are tempted to believe that maybe Jesus hasn’t come near at all – or even worse, that his reign is not the reign of the victorious King, but an impotent imposter.

This temptation is why we need the Church all the more. As we grow in faith and the knowledge of Jesus, we begin to see the whole picture. Yes, there is still pain and suffering in the world. Yes, Jesus left his disciples and now sits at the right hand of his Father. But, he hasn’t abandoned us. Even (especially?) in the midst of brokenness, sin, and sadness, Jesus comes even now to reign in grace, mercy, and healing. He comes forgiving sins. He feeds us with his body and blood. He washes us with the water of rebirth and renewal. He breathes on us his Holy Spirit. Most of all, he has promised to return in glory, when he will draw near to us visibly once and for all, bringing with him life and salvation. Through his death and resurrection, we look forward not only to his return, but to his restoration. So rejoice! Jesus is coming. And he brings with him peace and joy, glory and salvation. There will be no more sin, crying, pain, sickness or death. For now, we wait. And, we pray with the Church of all times and places: Come soon, Lord Jesus!

- Pastor Squire

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