Last week, we began a series of Advent reflections by noting that all disciples of Jesus are called to a bi-focal view of life that keeps Christ’s first and second comings always in sight.
When all life is seen from this dual vantage point, faith, hope and love thrive.
Practically, this requires an intentional allowing of God’s redemptive acts to shape our present, and to order our everyday lives by godly means – i.e. devotion to Christ by means of grace, discipleship after Christ in Christian community and on-going mission with Christ into the world – for His greater ends of God’s glory and Kingdom come.
God’s storied interventions into our sad histories have profound meaning and impact on our identity and purpose. For one, it puts us in our rightful place.
Our lives become primarily not about us. (In truth, they never were.)
The self-centered sin-laden script of our lives is supplanted in Christ by His greater story of sacrificial love that saves. The world is His canvas to paint and restore. History is really His.
“God is not the supporting actor in our stories; we have bit parts in his.” 1
In fact, each time we gather for communion as His people, we remind ourselves of this: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”
Such words are declared by God’s people after the consecration of the elements in the Anglican liturgy for Holy Communion. It is an ancient confession of the mystery of our faith. 2
They, of course, recall the Apostle Paul’s injunction in 1 Corinthians 11:26 – where he fuses past, present and future with meaning around our common table, with Christ as both exalted host and spiritual meal.
The season of Advent accentuates this reminder of an overshadowing transformative canopy of hope and love infusing the life of faith – a greater story than our sinfulness and brokenness perceives or allows.
For He indeed is the brim and base of our journeys round, the true horizon of our pilgrim wanderings, the Promised Land of our final hope and arriving.
God’s meta-narrative told in Scripture in 4 Acts (Creation, Fall, Redemption and Renewal) is the truest story there is, no matter what the world protests and proclaims. It is our making and becoming.
It is the only story we the church are divinely given to tell a world full of fear, the fake and the frivolous.
The saddest reflection I can make on this COVID-19 stained year is how little and to so few I have shared what I know and been graciously given by Christ – the greatest story never told?
For Jesus demanded we make disciples of all peoples in Matthew 28:28-20 – it is the lasting overarching task on us his church.
As the late John Stott argued, “His authority on earth allows us to dare to go to all the nations. His authority in heaven gives us our only hope of success. And His presence with us leaves us no other choice.”
Indeed, there is no higher purpose in life than to do the Father’s will; no work with greater significance than that which witnesses to and glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ; no lasting legacy that does not have God’s eternity in view.
He came to die so we, the condemned might be free; the dead in sin come to life in Him. He lives again, is ascended and will return to judge and rule. A Story of stories – timely, timeless and true.
This Advent and Christmas, will you and I, empowered by His Spirit, go the extra mile to tell his Gospel story loud and clear – with words that are backed up by our works and lives?
1 Vanhoozer, “Letter To An Aspiring Theologian: How of Speak of God Truly.” In First Things, August/September 2018. http://www.firstthings.com/article/2018/08/letter-to-an-aspiring-theologian.
2 Versions of this statement (called the Memorial Acclamation) are found in Eucharistic liturgy of many historic churches. In the Liturgy of St James, the principal liturgy of the Syriac Orthodox Church, after the priest blesses the bread and wine, the people respond with a similar acclamation: “Your death, our Lord, we commemorate, Your resurrection we confess and Your second coming we wait for. May Your mercy be upon us all.”