“But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”
(I Thessalonians 5:4-11,NLT)
My spiritual life has become more dynamic since I began to follow the liturgical calendar in my “Daily Office” (Devotional Life). Whenever I make this declaration I am always misunderstood by individuals as becoming more ritualistic in my spiritual practices or I have had people ask me if I have begun to pray to icons. The issue with most North American Christians is we have distanced ourselves from history which than leaves us vulnerable to the notion that “Everything we do as believers today, we have invented.” As a result we tend to not see the eternal aspects of our Life in Christ but instead we default to a “crisis to crisis” relationship with Jesus Christ losing the dynamic perspective of the spiraling adventure of the spiritual life. The incredible inspired message of the bible crescendos in an act called the “Incarnation” in which an “Almighty, Sovereign Creator of all things who transcends time loved us so much that He chose to condescend himself by taking on human flesh and entered into human history in order to do something that humanity could not do for themselves which is to be redeemed and given a hope as people who would live as citizens in His kingdom.” So God chose to enter into time and Jesus Christ modeled what it meant to live in sync with the rhythm of God’s heartbeat in particular seasons. Thus, every year is a distinct growth point in life, the shedding of another shell of life. Each year brings something unique to us and calls for something different from us. The liturgical year is an adventure in bringing the Christian life to fullness, the heart to alert, the soul to focus. It does not concern itself with the questions of how to make a living. It concerns itself with the questions of how to make a life.
Therefore, the apostle Paul in writing to the Thessalonians is dealing with a people who had been immersed in the heresy that Jesus Christ had already returned and they had missed him. The Apostle than exhorts them that, “But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.” In other words, you are aware of the seasons and because you belong to Christ you know the character of God is such that He would not behave in a manner that would treat you as an outsider or one who is distant. Reflect on this that the God who chooses to reveal Himself in Scripture uses the unfolding drama of History to reveal His character. Paul states in the First Thessalonians passage that Jesus Christ came so that we can live with him forever. He is not an angry God who simply wants to practice His judgment with a bad aim so that we can suffer. The life and death of Jesus gave promise of the deliverance of the human condition. Because Jesus lived the very life we live, He identified with the eternal worth and lasting import of every single one of us. Jesus’ coming into humanity and living a life on earth was the thunderous acclamation of a Living God that every hair on the human head was not only counted but it had meaning. Thus, the act of God entering into human history and working His Mission, “Missio Dei,” is not about a series of events at all. It is about the import of these defining events.
We are about to enter one of these defining moments and it is called “Advent.” This season is about learning to wait. The function of Advent is to remind us what we’re waiting for as we go through life too busy with things that do not matter to remember the things that do. It is a season of slowing down and thinking about what is important for us today. Advent comes from the Latin, which denotes “coming. “But Advent is not about one coming; it is about three comings. The great spiritual question in this season that is posed for each one of us is, which “coming” are you waiting for now?
Each of these comings is very different. The first coming is the remembrance of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth in the flesh. The second coming is the coming of the presence of God in our lives which enlivens us to be consciously aware of His closeness to us in our daily activity. The final coming to which Advent points us is the Second Coming, the Parousia. It is the echo of Heaven that reminds us that this place is not our home and that the King that came as a baby the first time will return as the Lion. It is the fullness that meets every longing in our heart.
Advent is a season of joy in which we understand that we have been created to be the best tool in the Master’s Hand. It is reminder that though we may face challenges that we never expected God shows up not for us to escape life’s challenges, but instead, He empowers us to know that He will be with us as we journey through these challenges.
Advent is the anticipation of a “Divine Interruption” of God who is incognito invading planet earth with an overwhelming blanket of Hope, Love and Peace in the midst midst of the normal and chronic condition of fear in the frail human context of life on earth. The anticipation of this “Divine Interruption” opens our hearts to the rhythms of God’s grace in His sovereignty in which we surrender to be the best tool in His hand to serve others. Our learning to wait helps us to slow down and understand that, “He gives us a trust to navigate those things we did not expect because He is ordering things He already knew for His redemptive purpose.”