I was journalling in the house of prayer on Friday.
I had just been reading a prayer pamphlet for the day. They mention that this is the time when Christians looking forward to the great hope of the second coming of Jesus – the Parousia. Yet their subsequent prayer points had nothing to do with that, but focused on the immediate, the living, blessing and serving towards Christmas.
The prayer points were great. Yet it is as though the writer didn’t know how to connect the two. We mention Jesus’ return at the start of Advent because it is part of the church’s calendar, but we don’t know how to relate it to our Christian lives. It struck me again about the great disconnect between this eschatological statement of faith and how on earth we find it relevant to our life and mission as Christians.
What does the proclamation and longing for Jesus’ return have to do with our witness here in 2022?
It can’t be just that, if life is difficult and dark, that in some distant, ephemeral way, God will sort things out and there will be a bright dawn at some vague future point.
The second coming of Jesus is surely meant to have teeth for my life as a Christian, must surely be a sure anchor point of our faith. It should mean something in a joined up internal conversation for the average believer. I am certain that is God’s intent. I believe and therefore I act, I am changed, fortified, strengthened, more convinced in my faith and witness, precisely because I know that Jesus will return.
Whether near or far (and I think it is near), our belief in the Parousia speaks of a certain and hopeful future. It declares the certainty of God’s coming kingdom, of his purposeful plans, of us being in the arc of the salvation story, that has an end point. It adds fuel to our prayers, gives a spring in our step, even joy in our work and service. I do not live in isolation, or in a meaningless universe, but in a great story of divine saving love, that is going somewhere, and that I am caught up in.
We say in churches this great statement: ‘Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.’
The start of Advent causes us to stop and think about this coming. Belief in Jesus’ return is not some theological iceberg or floe that has somehow broken off and become separated from the continent of faith, but is part of the great land mass of the Christian story, a story of promise and fulfilment. Jesus’ first and second coming are intrinsically and vitally linked, and this faith causes a healthy tension in our daily life, and a pull in our spirit towards a glorious kingdom that is fast approaching. The church lives from this certain hope and works towards this great and glorious day, when Jesus comes as our victorious king to save and liberate the world from its bondage to sin and evil.
As the apostle Peter encourages us, let us ‘look forward to the day of God and speed it’s coming.’ (2 Peter 3v12 NIV). Amen, come Lord Jesus!