By Medicine Hat News on December 2, 2017.
Kim Jong Un has just claimed “nuclear completion,” whatever that means, after North Korea tested its latest missile. Today’s equivalent of sabres continue to be noisily rattled and brandished around the globe. Women and children continue to be victimized, trafficked and abused on an industrial scale. Thousands die trying to cross the Mediterranean to find a better life. Another celebrity’s head has just rolled for “inappropriate sexual behaviour,” this time Matt Lauer at NBC. The gaunt spectre of starvation hangs over too many human beings. Despite the best intentions of good-hearted people, much of our world remains lost and weary.
We need help. The good news is, help is on its way.
Tomorrow is the First Sunday in Advent, the first of the four Sundays in the liturgical church calendar, reminding us that Jesus is coming again in great glory one day and to wake up and make sure we’re ready when he does. Oh yes, and to prepare our hearts for another merrily holy Christmas while we’re waiting. Hope, faith, joy and peace are the four bright, hopeful themes to set us up for that.
Christianity, however, is about real people living real lives in a real world. So it is not surprising that there is another set of Advent themes to go with them — the Four Last Things; death, judgment, heaven and hell — which reflect the more sobering realities I listed above
Those themes are not just religious pessimism, darkness and gloom. They are real. We all experience them. Death comes to us all, anywhere from the moment of conception to ripe old age. Advent helps us to be ready for it. We all consider certain people (other than ourselves) are deserving of a healthy dose of God’s judgment. In the meantime, we do a pretty good job of judging one another — even, I’m ashamed to admit, in the church. Wouldn’t hurt to let Advent help to avoid that, too. Hell? Surely a loving God couldn’t even imagine such a thing. Yet, Jesus spoke of it often. While we wait, there is such a thing as hell on earth. Far too many people experience it. Even in Canadian homes. Advent helps us avoid going there. Heaven? Sounds good. Certainly better than the alternative. Worth making the Advent effort to be ready to go there when the time comes.
Just as they all go together in a real Advent — hope, death, faith, judgement, joy, heaven, peace and hell — so they go together in a real life. That’s why the Advent journey through history and Scripture to a Saviour is so valuable. It reminds us of the Advent, presence and eventual return of someone with the power to both save us from those dark realities and fill us with peace and joy of heaven itself. Jesus.
By the Rev Canon Gene Packwood (Gene blogs at GENEralities kiwirev.blogspot.ca and can be found on Facebook and Twitter)
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