Sunday, December 9, 2018

Looking for the Day of Christ Jesus

December 9, 2018: 2nd Sunday of Advent
Baruch 5:1–9 / Psalm 126 / Philippians 1:4–6, 8–11 / Luke 3:1–6
Looking for the Day of Christ Jesus

One of the great verses of the Bible is Philippians 1:6 –– being confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. God is at work in our lives. It helps to keep in mind what God has done and what God is going to do. These are two crucial things. The first is that in the death and resurrection of Jesus, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2Cor 5:21). A second thing is that Jesus is going to come again––the day of Christ Jesus, and it will bring the full effect of his death and resurrection to all of creation. Jesus Christ has done everything necessary for our salvation but the full effect is yet to come. We live “in between” what Jesus did in his first coming and what he will do in his second coming.

Christian life is lived in this tension of what God has done and will yet do. The great thing is this: What God starts, he will finish. Christians live in hope. That is why we live by faith; we believe that God has already done something incredible, and that he is going to finish it when Jesus is fully revealed as King of kings and Lord of lords––the day of Christ Jesus.

As Christians, everything we do and everything we value needs to be understood between these two fixed certainties of what God has done and what he is going to do. As Paul writes this Philippian letter, he is in prison; despite his circumstances his hope is in what God has done and what God is going to do. This is meant to be our model. We all live with threatening situations: An important relationship begins to unravel…. a loved one gets seriously ill or even dies…. hopes for our children get torpedoed…. we discover we have inherited dysfunctional living patterns…. our job (and thus our earthly security) is threatened…. What do we do? We hang on to what God has done and what he is going to do.

Now, while our faith is indeed rooted in what God has done through Jesus in his death and resurrection, that alone is not full salvation. This world has not yet come into the reality of God's rule. So Christians, like all others, still suffer. Christians, like all others, still physically die. The fullness of God's salvation is yet to come; it is what God will do. We live for what's coming. We prepare for what's coming. We make our decisions based on what's coming. We choose our values based on what's coming.

Here is what is coming: the day of Christ. This is in continuity with the Old Testament reading for today and prophecy that John quotes in the Gospel. This is the hope of every Christian who has chosen to trust God in spite of the pain, the tears and the death. Jesus is coming as God's King of the universe, and he is going to change this world to be all that God has promised.

It is more than we can imagine, so critics say this is a pathological diversion––“imaginary pie in the sky by and by.” It is said that this world is what matters, and it is implied only this world. Yes, there are many good things which call for our attention in this world. There are also other things which can distract us spiritually and even hurt us. So this is the question: is this world as we know it all there is? Is so, then there is nothing to Christian Faith. But if we grant Christian Faith, then there is something that makes sense of all the details that surround our live.

Now if we try to keep track of all those details in an attempt to get everything right by ourselves, we will only get bogged down and lose our way. As we make our way in this world we have one focus: the day of Christ is coming, and it will put everything right.

One winter day five boys were playing in the woods. They decided to see who could make the straightest set of tracks in the snow. Most of the boys very carefully watched their feet, putting one directly in front of the other. But when they had crossed a clearing in the woods and looked back, one track was curved, one was crooked and two were zig-zag. Only one boy had a straight track. When they asked him how he did it, he replied that he had not looked at his feet; instead, he had picked out a tree across the clearing and had walked straight toward it.

As we "walk" through the details of our lives in this world, we keep our spiritual eyes on what God has done and what he is going to do. That is what it means to live in faith. That is the way we can enter into the real meaning of Advent. We keep our eyes looking for Jesus…. until the day of Christ. He is coming!

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