Jesus Is Coming – What Do We Expect? The Entire Series.

This year’s Advent series at Godspace has been the richest and most prolific ever. And it isn’t over yet. Tomorrow I will post the reflections for this week’s synchroblog Jesus Came Did You Get What You Expected?

However I want to take this opportunity to thank all who submitted posts as well as those who have followed faithfully what we have written. Now that Christmas is over some of you may have more time for reflection and like to look back over the entire series. may you enjoy a God blessed Christmas season and you read and savour what God is saying.

Jesus Is Returning…Today by Jeremy Myers

The Night Before by Joel Boehner

The True Light Is Coming Into the World – by David Perry

The Wait is Over – Advent Reflection by Dave Timmer

Have We Lost Jesus at Christmas? by James Prescott.

Virgin Mary &The Bible’s Answer to Human Trafficking by Rev. Rajkumar Boaz Johnson

Come Spirit Of Advent – A Prayer of Hope and Expectation by Sally Coleman

Remember Our Story by Ellen Haroutunian

May Salvation and Righteousness Sprout Up Together

A Prayer for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Parousia: Perchance to Dream #1 by Melanie Clark Pullen

Parousia: Perchance to Dream #2 by Melanie Clark Pullen

Getting Ready for the Baby by John Leech

Expecting the Unexpected by Liz Dyer

Jesus Is Coming What Do I Want To Be Open To? by Kathy Escobar

Expecting Something That Matters by Sarah Styles Bessey

Simplify and Celebrate – What Makes for a Better Christmas or a Better World?

You Can Smuggle God into the World This Christmas – Edith Yoder

A Prayer for the Third Sunday of Advent 2011

Jesus is Coming – I Expect More Time by Ed Cyzewski

The Best of Gifts For Christmas by Steve Wickham

Jesus Is Coming – Did You Hear the News by Paula Mitchell

A Prayer for the Second Sunday of Advent 2011

Advent As A Mirror of Possibility and Expectation – Dave Perry

What Are We Waiting For – Reflections on the Second Sunday of Advent by Dave Hens

Expect the Unexpected by Tracy Dickerson

More Resources for Advent 2011

Jesus Is Coming Will I Get What I Desire? by Dave Wainscott

First Monday of Advent – Advent Re-imagining Everything by Ron Cole

The God Who Would Be Friend – Theresa Froehlich

Advent in Two Minutes – An Introduction to the Season

Advent is Near – There’s A New World Coming

Jesus Is Coming – What Do We Expect?

In spite of the fact that Advent was four full weeks this year, I still ran out of time to post all the Advent reflections that were submitted either to me or to the Advent synchroblog which launched this series. Here are some other reflections you may like to dig into.

 

Liz VerHage at Living Theology

Glenn Hager – Antithetical Advent

Tammy Carter at Blessing The Beloved – His Gift … the way of escape!

Carol Kuniholm at Words Half Heard – What I’m Waiting For

Mihee Kim-Kort – Advent Expectations: Keep Awake

Wendy McCaig – We’re Expecting A Baby

John Reid at Blog One Another – Undiscovered Advent: The Second Coming of Christ

 

Jesus Is Returning…Today by Jeremy Myers

Today’s post in our series Jesus is Coming What Do We Expect  is from author and blogger  Jeremy Myers. It was first posted on his blog Till He Comes as Jesus Is returning Today. This is the last post in the series. I hope that you have enjoyed our journey through Advent. God bless and have a wonderful Christmas celebration.

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Jesus is returning

Jesus is returning

No, I’m not pulling a “Harold Camping.” Though I do believe that Jesus will return to earth literally and physically at some time in the future, I am NOT saying that today is the day.

But I am saying that Jesus is returning today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And every day from now until He actually returns.

Confused yet? I am saying that Jesus returns daily until He actually returns.

The Daily Return of Jesus?

I think that as Christians we have often taught and thought about what Scripture says concerning the future return of Jesus Christ, while ignoring and neglecting what Scripture says concerning the present and daily return of Jesus Christ. If you didn’t know that such an idea is taught in Scripture, then you have proved my point. Most people don’t know it, which is why most people don’t live for it.

Yet the idea of the daily return of Jesus Christ is quite prevalent in Scripture. Jesus talked about it in Acts 1 before He ascended into heaven. Paul talks about in several of His letters as does Peter, James, and John.

Loving and serving others like JesusDuring His three years of earthly ministry, Jesus served others by healing the sick, providing for the poor, loving the outcast, teaching the masses, feeding the hungry, delivering the captives, eating with sinners, partying with prostitutes, and in general, showing people what it looks like for God to be ruling and reigning on earth.

And then, after Jesus died and rose again from the dead, He basically told His followers:

You are my witnesses, my ambassadors to the world. The things you have heard my say? You now say similar things to the world. The things you have seen me do? You now do similar things, or even greater things. The people you have seen me hang out with? You now hang out with them.

As you say these things, and do these things, and hang out with these people, know that I am there with you, in you and through you, saying these things and doing these things and loving these people all over again.

If I stay, I am only one person. But if I go, I can send my Spirit into each one of you, so that I can multiply myself in each one of you, and in you, be the voice of God, the touch of God, and the love of God to all people.

Many people today are hoping for change. Hoping for corruption to end. Hoping for greed to cease. Hoping for equality, mercy, freedom, and justice. And a large segment of people who hope for these things believe that such things will not happen until Jesus Christ returns.

Such a view is right, but it is also wrong.

It is true that such things will not be universally practiced upon the earth until Jesus Christ physically returns to rule and reign over the entire earth. But this does not mean that we, as representatives of Jesus on earth, cannot begin to practice equality, mercy, freedom, and justice right now.

We must not wait for governments to enact the change, or presidents and congressman to make laws about it, or bank presidents and company CEOs to suddenly change course. If we wait for that, we will truly be waiting until return of Christ. No, we must get out there and put into practice NOW the things we long for, wait for, look for, and hope for.

We must be Jesus to the world.

You and I are Jesus to the World

The return of Jesus is in our service to others.We are Jesus Christ to the world, the Body of Christ that is physically present on earth, being the hands and feet and voice of Jesus to a world that without light and without hope.

So this Christmas season, as we remember the first coming of Jesus Christ, and as we look forward to His Second Coming, also remember to look for ways on how Jesus Christ can return today, in and through you, to someone who needs His touch and His voice in their lives today.

Until the day Jesus returns, He returns today in you.

The True Light Is Coming Into the World – by David Perry

The True Light - photo by David Perry

The True Light - photo by David Perry

This morning’s post is a second contribution from David Perry. The powerful images that he incorporates into this reflection spoke deeply to me as I read through it this morning. It was first posted on his blog as World, Life-space and Enlightenment. Dave is a Methodist Minister in Yorkshire England. He enjoys fell walking, rambling, running, reading, art, photography, model railways, red wine and watching movies on DVD. Dave is married to Sue, who is Deputy Head of Dietetics for the Hull and E. Yorkshire NHS Hospitals Trust. They have two daughters, Bekki (online merchandising designer) and Judy (final year Communication and Media student).

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To Christian eyes the work of Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, on display at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, provides a wonderful insight into the sheer expectant joy which Advent promises. The shapes of being he crafts deliberately speak into the body and soul of humanity.  This intention is apparent as we look at and through the mesh ‘portraits’ of the two girls Nuria and Irma who live near his home, or in the close-up photographs of one ‘person-space’ in the dual figure work ‘Spiegel’, which is formed from the letters of eight different alphabets.
These remarkable artworks display the contours of our being and becoming; they invite us to see the meanings which define us and which shape our day to day experience of being alive. The interior space of our personhood is revealed and becomes accessible. Light, space and meaning show us who we are, and in the act of understanding we connect with our deepest longings and our darkest fears.

And as we do this in Advent, God’s word in Christ becomes the open life-space of love which enlightens our being, just as the warmly vibrant colours of sunset seem to bring Plensa’s rooftop children into a cherishing focus of pure wonderment. Born from stardust, the light enlightens the truth that our transient lives are suffused by and eternally held within the love-light of God’s presence, the one who is, as we see here, closer to us than our own breathing. The true light gifts this intimate life-giving truth that the love which is at the heart of the universe invites us to inhabit the life-space of grace shaped by love’s meaning.

Word became flesh

Word became flesh - by David Perry

And the joy of Advent arises from God’s enlightening word which became flesh in Christ Jesus, the one who beckons us to enter within the freeing Godspace of humanity which his life defines. Plensa’s ‘Spiegel’ speaks to me of how the word embodied in Jesus uniquely reveals to us the image of an authentically God-shaped life. The gospel alphabet of forgiveness and compassion graces us with the promise that everyone can enter into this precious experience of Christ-likeness and make it their own. Jesus was born into our humanity; Advent promises us that we will be reborn into his divinity, and there become really and truly human in nothing less than the image of God.

As night took hold Spiegel was illuminated from within and began to draw a steady stream of fascinated visitors. Some stood outside and beyond and gazed. Others were more adventurous and entered within the enlightened life-shapes. With the eyes of faith this was such a beautiful sight to behold. All the expectation of Advent is held for me in this one image. Standing within the tangible promise of the word’s beautifully enfolding truth and love, our intangible yearnings are illuminated and transformed by a gift-space we neither expect or deserve.

Living within the Light

Living within the Light - David Perry

The Wait is Over – Advent Reflection by Dave Timmer

nativity - Lu Lan China

nativity - Lu Lan China

This morning’s post comes from Dave Timmer who works with A Rocha here in the Pacific NW . He also manages Five Loaves Farm in Lynden WA

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We’re bombarded with tradition at this time of the year.  As I get older, I think back on the advent traditions of my church.  There was a time that I didn’t think my church really dealt with advent.  That mostly came out of familiarity – traditions often become so second nature that we don’t even realize they are traditions.  It also came out of spiritual immaturity.  Christmas was about presents under the tree and the church rituals were just a sideshow.  Furthermore, and this still happens, my postmodern mind tends to get frustrated by the tradition battles that take place every year.  The fights over which decorations are appropriate in the sanctuary, or the ridiculous “War on Christmas” that a certain cable news station likes to invent.  Now, I see greed creep into my five year-old’s mind as he looks through a Christmas Lego magazine.  This is frustrating.  So, rather than enjoy this time of year, my jaded mind would rather just skip it.

Because of this, I need to remind myself that there are some advent traditions that are good to remember.

Every year, four Sundays before Christmas, the music changed in church.   The kids jockeyed for position to be Mary or Joseph in the upcoming play, not just a stoic shepherd or, even worse, a sheep.  And each week, a church family was responsible for lighting one more candle in the Advent wreath.  Of course, adding a candle each week dramatically increased the odds of lighter malfunctions.

This is probably my biggest advent memory – big brother (who is just old enough to be responsible with fire) is desperately clicking the unresponsive lighter and with an increasing amount of panic, he gives it a bit of a shake before finally making eye contact with dad.  Dad is nervously watching, mulling over his options of how to help.  Then just as dad is about to move, the lighter miraculously ignites and a soft chuckle rises from the congregation.  Big brother redeems himself by getting all the candles lit without also igniting his sleeve.  Dad smiles…disaster averted.

This year, though, I’ve been more aware of an advent emphasis on “waiting”.  It is an attempt to empathize with the young couple at the center of the Christmas story.  This couple wonders what awaits them in Bethlehem – with a new baby set to arrive soon, very soon.  No hospital arrangements are ready for them.  They don’t even have an open couch arranged.  Furthermore, this baby isn’t even Joseph’s.

Today, I’m wondering if this emphasis on waiting is appropriate.  There was a time for waiting, yes.  The Biblical story, brilliantly, plays this out.  As far back as the Genesis story, a promise is given.   A promise of redemption, a promise to make things right again.  The curse will be knocked back.  That is the central theme – and the story is amazing.  No matter how bad things get, God is not about to abandon this promise.  Noah builds a big boat.  Abraham has a son.  David becomes king.  It’s going to happen.

But God’s people rebel and Babylon creeps nearer.  The situation is as bad as it can get.  The prophets describe the scene.  Their sieged capitol city is in ruins.  People are so hungry.  There are stories circulating of mothers eating their own starved children.  The king, cowardly, fled the city.  But he was quickly captured, his sons were murdered, his eyes were cut out, his hands were bound and he was dragged into exile.  The temple is a smoldering pile of rocks.  God is gone and his people are scattered.  They are forced to leave their homes and their farms.  The symbol of God’s promise – the “promised” land – is no longer theirs.  The prophets long for restoration.

Throughout this longing, though, there weaves a beautiful thread of hope.  There are promises of peace and justice (often quite violent justice…but justice).  There are promises of deliverance and re-membering the scattered people.  There is the promise of a Messiah and rest.  There is hope, even, for the land.  The “promised” land experiences a Sabbath.

After these promises, however, there is silence…for a few centuries.  This is the time to wait.

Finally, the silence breaks.  Remember those promises.  There is now a new conqueror with a Roman name.  Remember that royal line.  The people have come back to that same land.  Remember that the land rested.  There is a new temple and new traditions.  Remember the pictures of justice that those prophets painted.  The new conqueror wants to keep track of all those people with all those traditions.  Remember how God uses nations to write his story.  And a poor, pregnant, unmarried couple travels across the country to have a baby in a barn.  Remember the Messiah that they wrote about.

The waiting is over.  This is what they’ve been waiting for.  The rest is history, right?  We’ve even made this moment our fulcrum of time.  Everything has changed.

Jesus’ kingdom has been established.  In it, the hard work of redemption is occurring.  This isn’t happening in some far-off place or some future kingdom.   God’s redemptive work is happening today.  His story continues.

So what are we waiting for?

The Christmas story has happened – remember it, yes.  Empathize with that young desperate couple – definitely.  But the time for waiting is over.

It’s time to join in.

Come Spirit Of Advent – A Prayer of Hope and Expectation by Sally Coleman

Performing for the Crowd

Performing for the Crowd - photo by Dave Perry

This morning’s post in the series Jesus is Coming What Do We Expect comes from Sally Coleman. It was first posted on her blog Eternal Echoes as Come Spirit of Advent (A Prayer of Hope and Expectation).  This picture above, by Dave Perry inspired the poem.  He really caught Sally’s imagination by describing the crowd drawn by this performer and description of the way she moved!

Come Spirit

of Advent

awaken new hope

within us,

ignite

our hearts with

a fresh awareness

of your opportunities,

call us beyond

our comfort

seeking, nostalgic

notions,

and set us ablaze

with passion

for your purposes,

lead us in your dance

of possibilities,

and rekindle

our desires

to seek you,

to know you,

to share you,

to be freed by you…

Come Spirit

of Advent,

and capture our

imaginations

with unfolding visions

of your eternal story;

God with us,

always with us

ever with us!

Remember Our Story by Ellen Haroutunian

Ray Dirks CMU chapel painting

chapel painting at CMU Winnipeg by Ray Dirks

This morning’s post in the series: Jesus Is Coming What Do We Expect comes from Ellen Haroutunian. It was first published on her blog as Advent 2011 Synchroblog: Remember Our Story. I feel that as we move closer to Christmas and start to feel more and more overwhelmed by the frenzied hype that beckons us to consume, consume, consume there is even more need to draw aside, reflect and remind ourselves of the story that is meant to be celebrated at this season.

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Our world is unraveling. We are seeing the deterioration of civil society in many ways. The Thanksgiving holiday week alone has been an embarrassment of aggressive consumerism with shoppers resorting to pepper spray and robbing each other at gunpoint. Black Friday is extending back into Thursday, threatening to diminish the one day we have set aside to pause our frantic lives and give thanks that some of us actually have money to spend. And that’s just the news on the small scale.

I just had a long conversation with a friend over the meaning of Christmas. It began around her assertion that Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus. When you look at Walmart at midnight on Thanksgiving, you can see that that has become very true. But the conversation was more about how many choose to celebrate Christmas either in a secular fashion or with more ancient ties to the pagan rituals that were the inspiration for the choice of December for this observance. I agreed, the holiday was birthed from engagement with other traditions and has taken on many more dimensions, much of which have nothing to do with the remembering of Jesus and the Christian story. I also agreed with her that people should be allowed to celebrate how they wish without harassment. In her insistence that Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus, I assume she wanted to show support for the millions who celebrate Christmas in various ways but have no Christian affiliation.

Even so, it’s important to remember that the shaping of the Christmas celebration (long before secular commercialization) was intentional and beautiful. Early Christians brought their story to the celebrations that they had already been observing such as pagan solstice rituals, or more likely, the Roman solar celebration. Since the beginning of time people had observed that light returns to the world as the world revolves around the sun, renewing and enlivening as it comes. The Christian story, the gospel story, is about the Light coming into the world, bringing life and healing to hurting souls. What was already observed and celebrated in rhythm with creation was then seen to hold a deeper meaning in the minds of these early Christians. As a result, the season of waiting (Advent) and the celebration of the Incarnation of God, Emmanuel, was born. Eventually, the season became known as the Feast of the Nativity or Christ’s Mass. So on the level of tradition and history, the evolution of Christmas as a holiday (holy day) is indeed about Jesus. The whole point of the discussion was that there’s no need to diminish Christian tradition to make room for other traditions, just as there’s no need to diminish other traditions to make space for the Christian.

But that discussion isn’t the true issue. I understand that there is a lot of anger towards Christians who have been offering judgment instead of the Good News. I understand that people would then choose to diminish the Christian Story as a result. That’s what people do. That’s why the world is hurting. We all diminish and deny the traditions, beliefs, needs and feelings of the other in order to make space for ourselves. However, in doing so, any empathy for the other is also lost. Lack of empathy for the other is the human heart in its most desolate state. The particular case above was about diminishing Christianity. But the way of thinking that essentially diminishes or eliminates the other, any other, has become the norm worldwide as each of our hearts shrink and pull back into self-protective bunkers. This is what our broken and hard-hearted system of justice does.

So, we live in a world in which empathy is a rare gemMore than ever, this has become a world of every man or woman for themselves, whether it be about grabbing the last waffle maker at Walmart or blocking job creating bills because you don’t like the politics of the party in power, or insisting that every conservative Christian is hate-filled and every liberal one is immoral, or that every Muslim is a terrorist. We no longer seek to listen, to know, to honor and respect each other. We no longer see the Image in one another. The idea of being our brothers’ keeper has become laughable, even amongst Jesus followers. We cannot compromise and work together because whatever the other represents is simply too offensive, too threatening, too inconvenient, too irrelevant to our personal lives. In this sense, we indeed have truly lost Jesus.

We do not need to create a “let’s take Christmas back” mentality. That is not what this post is about and it’s only another way to diminish those with whom we disagree. We do acknowledge that millions of people who are not Christians celebrate “Christmas” in various ways around the world and can remain unthreatened by that. However, the most important thing we can do is to reflect to the world the Light that has come to us. The incarnation of God-as-human is an act of ultimate empathy. God, who is Wholly Other became the other in order to love fully and to reconcile, to heal, to save. This is what love does! Love enters the story of the other. This world that has become more cold and hard and cynical than ever is desperate for a love that enters in.

Remember the Story. May we remember and act accordingly and thus bring true empathy back into the world, whether it’s at Walmart or in congress or towards Wall Street protestors or in trying to be politically correct (or not).  The world says, “Your needs and pain don’t matter to me” as it steps on the heads of the weaker brother to move upward towards bigger and better. Jesus calls us back down to our senses, back down to being our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, back down to a life of love. And when we listen to his Story, we find that he has shown us how.

The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. John 1:9 RSV

Definitions of Empathy:

1. The imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it (perhaps incarnates it? – my addition)

2. The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.

May Salvation and Righteousness Sprout Up Together

Varghese - calming the storm

My morning’s Advent readings focused on salvation and righteousness. The powerful linking of these to the coming of Christ impacted me profoundly this morning. And more than that the imagery of salvation as the coming of justice, healing and righteousness is something that I know I need to embrace more fully as we approach Christmas. Listen to what the scriptures say and reflect on the wonder of God’s salvation: (curtesy of Biblegateway.com)

Show us your unfailing love, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

8 I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying,
for he speaks peace to his faithful people.
But let them not return to their foolish ways.
9 Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
so our land will be filled with his glory.

10 Unfailing love and truth have met together.
Righteousness and peace have kissed!
11 Truth springs up from the earth,
and righteousness smiles down from heaven.
12 Yes, the Lord pours down his blessings.
Our land will yield its bountiful harvest.
13 Righteousness goes as a herald before him,
preparing the way for his steps. (Psalm 85: 7-13)

And from Isaiah 45: 6b-8

I am the Lord, and there is no other.
7 I create the light and make the darkness.
I send good times and bad times.
I, the Lord, am the one who does these things.

8 “Open up, O heavens,
and pour out your righteousness.
Let the earth open wide
so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together.
I, the Lord, created them.

And finally from the Gospel of Luke 7:18-22 spelling out for us so beautifully what salvation and righteousness look like in the coming of the Messiah:

So John called for two of his disciples, 19 and he sent them to the Lord to ask him, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

20 John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’”

21 At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and he restored sight to many who were blind. 22 Then he told John’s disciples,“Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.

Parousia: Perchance to Dream #2 by Melanie Clark Pullen

Jesus Statue

Jesus Is Coming What Do We Expect

This morning’s post is #2 of a post by Melanie Clark Pullen. #1 was posted yesterday on this blog. The entire post originally appeared on her blog as Parousia 

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We are all waiting for something to happen, something to change and if we’re honest, there’s probably some of us who wish Jesus would hurry up and come back, snatch us all up so that we can live happily ever after with him in Heaven. What is he waiting for?

Except is that really what the second coming is all about?

The Greek word used for the Second coming of Jesus is Parousia, which is used to suggest the arrival of a royal or important person; it suggests the official presence of the person. The implication is that when Jesus returns it will be for us to enjoy the arrival here of his official presence in a way we don’t know yet. And this suggests something different to the popular idea that we will go somewhere else to be with Jesus.

I have to say that I’m with the English theologian N. T. Wright in his challenge of the assumption that when Jesus returns it is to take us away from this world into another. Rather, he suggests in his book Surprised by Hope, that Jesus’ return will be about making all things new here on earth and to raise us to a gloriously transformed new and bodily life.

To quote Bishop Wright:

“There will come a time, which might indeed come at any time, when, in the great renewal of the world which Easter itself foreshadowed, Jesus himself will be personally present, and will be an agent and model of the transformation that will happen both to the whole world and also to believers.” (p148)

What’s more, the renewal inaugurated by Jesus’ resurrected body continues, albeit incompletely, here and now as those who follow Christ are empowered by the Spirit to usher in God’s sovereign rule of justice, peace and love. This is what we pray for when we pray ‘ Thy will on earth as in heaven.’

It’s the ‘now and not yet’ tension that we live with as Christians. We know that Jesus will make all things new, indeed he is already transforming us into his likeness here and now but this work will not be made complete until he comes again.

Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, a church that was full of division and strife as it attempted to live out the transforming life of Christ in a city devoted to the worship of idols, lays out what he believes about the resurrection of Christ and of when he comes again in glory. The believers were waiting anxiously for this supposed second coming and beginning to doubt that it would happen.

Paul tells them in chapter 1, that God,

“will keep [them] strong to the end.”

And that they

“do not lack any spiritual gift as [they] eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed”

And there is that word parousia again – Christ’s revealing, his arrival is what we are waiting for but while we wait we have been given everything we need to bring about God’s Kingdom here on earth. That’s what Pentecost was about. That’s the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What does God’s kingdom look like then?

Who does the King care about? Where is his heart?

Which brings us back to Christmas and a teenage pregnancy, a man whose wife is having a child he knows is not his own, a baby boy born in a place where animals are given shelter, a family forced to flee from the threat of violence, to live as refugees in exile only to return to a land under occupation to live as second class citizens, oppressed by an empire whose only goal is domination and expansion.

Jesus’ whole life is lived on the margins, with those deemed unworthy, unwanted, unwell. His whole message, his manifesto is that these are the blessed, to the least of these belong the Kingdom of God. It is for these that he came, for these that he will make all things new. He is the Prince of Peace.

Listen to Psalm 80

Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock; you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us.

Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

The world cries out in pain and anguish. We only have to think about Somalia, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya. We only have look closer to home at people losing their jobs and homes, those suffering addiction and depression, those falling through the cracks in the system for whom Christmas will be the loneliest time in the year.

There is a collective cry around the world through the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring, saying ‘enough is enough’, we are tired of being down trodden, tired of being exploited, there must be more to this.

And we cry, Marana Tha! Come, Lord Jesus! Restore us, O God, make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

Parousia is the Greek for arrival, presence. The latin term is Adventus.

What are we waiting for?

We have this treasure in jars of clay – the hope that all things will be made new when Jesus comes again but while we wait, there is transformation, restoration, healing and justice by the power of His Holy Spirit for all who call on his Name.

We can start to live this hope now, to share this hope now, to work for justice and peace now, to give generously, to share graciously, to love extravagantly now and share the good news of God’s Kingdom with those whose hope is thin on the ground. And we are promised that we “do not lack any spiritual gift as we eagerly wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

What are we waiting for?

Parousia: Perchance to Dream #1 by Melanie Clark Pullen

Have you got the Christmas tree up yet?

Have you got the Christmas tree up yet?

Today’s posts come from Melanie Clark Pullen. I decided to break her reflection into two parts because it so rich with imagery and thoughts about the second coming of Christ. Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow morning. Or if you can’t wait visit the original post on her blog Parousia; Perchance to Dream .

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14 days till Christmas.

What are we waiting for?

Have you done your Christmas shopping?

Are you prepared? Have you the Christmas tree up? The turkey pre-ordered? Have you checked the Christmas tree lights to check what bulbs aren’t working?

Are you having palpitations at the very thought of everything you have to do before December the 25th? I have recurring nightmares of it being ten to midnight on Christmas eve and realising that I’ve forgotten to get one of my family a Christmas present.

Christmas is such a stressful time. We’re cajoled into being jolly and merry and spending time with family many of us spend the rest of the year avoiding. We’re lured into buying more stuff for people who don’t need it. If I’m given one more box of bath salts or hand cream… I mean, just what are you trying to tell me? Then there’s the wrapping and packaging that, no matter how carefully it is put together gets ripped off in a matter of seconds and, at best, gets recycled and at worse goes into land fill!

Then there’s the guilt. All the charities come out with their demands that we don’t forget the homeless, the hungry, the neglected donkeys at this special time of year. There is so much need. We can’t possibly be expected to donate money to every worthy cause.

And the travelling. Who’s travelling to visit family or friends this Christmas? Last year, the snow nearly scuppered our trip north to spend Christmas with my father in law. I was stressed the whole week leading up to the drive. And there was the worry about traffic, driving on slippery roads with two small children in the back.

Christmas. Who needs it?

Every year I make a vain attempt to focus on the reason for the season but inevitably I get sucked into the vortex which is the commercial secular holiday that Christmas has become and it sometimes feels like I’m waiting for the whole darn thing to be over!

What are we waiting for?

Christmas – When the God who breathed stars into existence entered into our broken and blistered world as a vulnerable new born baby.

Christmas – When the Creator became the created.

Christmas – the Incarnation – two worlds colliding in spectacular simplicity and heartfelt humility.

But that’s Christmas.

Sunday was the third Sunday of Advent. This season is the beginning of the liturgical year when as followers of the Risen Christ we turn our attention not only to the first incarnation of God but the second coming.

If I’m honest, until recently when anyone mentioned the Second Coming my thoughts would go to a horrible movie from the 70s called A Thief in the Night, or the Left Behind series of books which imagine a dramatic rapture of Christians out of the world which is left behind to endure a horrific time of tribulation. When we think of the Second Coming, we might think of Armageddon, the End Times, a final Judgement. All in all, it’s something we don’t think about very often, much less talk about in polite society. I bet, I’m already making some people squirm.

Certainly much of this imagery is drawn from the prophecy attributed to Jesus in Mark’s gospel:

The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth and the ends of the heavens.
Mark 13:26,27

The early Christians expected Jesus’ return within their life time. The first disciples had witnessed the resurrected Christ and taught his return to make all things new was immanent. So apostles like Paul urged the believers to be always ready for when the Lord would be ‘revealed’ – as we see in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

The piece in Mark has been suggested to have been a reference to the fall of Jerusalem in AD70 when many would have seen it as the end of the world. And in the centuries since there have been predictions of Armageddon when it’s felt that things can not get much worse and things inevitably must end. This year there was a very public predicition that the world would end in May by American pastor Harold Camping. When it didn’t, he recalculated for October. He has since retired from ministry, disappointed and disillusioned, albeit admitting that God is sovereign and that he has been humbled by his experience.

Outside of our own faith there’s a belief that the year 2012 has a strong spiritual significance and that, if not the end of the world, it marks the beginning of a new consciousness.

Getting Ready for the Baby by John Leech

Father John Leech - St Albans picnic 2011

Father John Leech - St Albans picnic 2011

This morning’s post in the series Jesus Is Coming What Do We Expect comes from our rector Father John Leech. John is rector at St Albans Episcopal church in Edmonds Washington. He blogs at sermon oats. 

Getting Ready for the Baby

This is the season of Advent – a season of joyful preparation and solemn anticipation. We know that the Child will come – but the season begins with portents of the end of time.

We know that at the end of all things, when the constructions of the last empire are down for good and all creation groans for redemption, our savior comes. He comes to judge and he comes to redeem.

He comes, not on our timetable, not when or where we want him to come, nor how. He does not come riding to our rescue in the last reel of the movie. Much as we want him to.

He comes to us, first, not in power and might, but in mystery and quiet.

He comes to us, he is already here.

Here, in our hearts – if we follow the one true God, adoring and worshipping him who created all things.

Here, in our hearts – if we ask him to come.

If we are ready.

On my mother’s kitchen bulletin board is a snapshot of a mother with three children, one standing and looking toward the camera, one squirming out of her lap, and another holding in his hand a cowboy hat on top of a stick. Why?

Because this is to be a photograph of my mother with all her children – and the one with the hat knows a fourth child is coming. So he represents the fourth child with a cowboy hat. He does not know much else about the coming child – he just knows that the child is coming and that the family is getting ready for the baby.

The family with the snapshot (you can see Dad’s shadow from behind the camera) knows they want their new member to be safe, and they want to get the stuff together they will need to welcome the baby. They are getting excited.

Maybe they will paint the baby’s room – not sure whether to paint it pink or blue they might paint it yellow or green. They are going to be getting gifts – things they will need to take care of the baby, things that will be fun or silly, toys for the baby to play with, or objects that it will admire.

They will want to nurture the baby. And they will be thinking about names.

Mary and Joseph had a slightly different situation. They knew some things about the baby that was on the way. In fact, a lot, if they had been reading the Hebrew Scriptures.

They had already received a suggestion of what to name the baby – Emmanuel, “God with us.” They probably counted on a boy. They certainly wondered if the baby would be safe. And if they had any ambitions about painting the baby’s room first they would need to know where that room would be.

They were soon to be amazed with an array of gifts. Gifts were coming that would tell them a lot about their baby – or confirm for them what they already suspected.

Strangers would deliver the gifts they were going to receive: first came shepherds and angels, and then Magi, wise people from the East who had “seen his star.” (Other visitors would come but they would come too late – and miss the baby.)

This baby was bound to cause excitement. All babies do. And each baby is special. This one had some extra excitement to generate.

The wise people came to adore him. They greeted him as King of the Jews.

Nobody else would call him that for a long time. And when anybody did again, it would be – a sign that he was not safe, and confirmation that his name really mattered and that he really was King.

But for now – there is a baby on the way.

A baby – not very royal looking at all. A baby – defenseless, quiet or crying, in need of nurture and safety and warmth, and in need of love.

A baby – in whom the hopes of all humanity are raised.

A baby…

The One who will come in power, the one who will bring with him the consummation of time – the Alpha and the Omega – first comes to us like this.

He comes to us, quiet, mysterious, in longing for us just as we are longing for him.

How shall we get ready for the baby?