Where would you like to go someday? Into what exclusive club or organization would you like to be granted admission? With whom would you most desire to associate? What are you willing to pay in order to make these things happen? How much of your attention will planning for these privileges occupy? How long will it take to accomplish the task? Will you consider your life to be second-rate, or significantly devalued if it never happens?
In the Advent renewal of our preparation for Christ’s coming we have thus far focused on the need for thinking rightly about what matters most, the ultimate triumph of the kingdom of God. That final goal is the perspective from which to see the events of history, from the trivialities of day-to-day life to the major news stories on CNN. The truth is, however, that we often have difficulty in weeding out the personal, temporal goals and desires from our pathway to participation in the kingdom.
Today’s texts (2 Samuel 7:18-29; Revelation 22:12-16; Psalm 90) are passages which again set the mind on where it is that God is taking history. The first is King David’s prayer in response to Nathan’s prophecy about the concerning David’s place in that history. The second affirms that the kingdom goal was never abandoned by God. But it is here presented as both invitation and warning: “Behold, I am coming soon. My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.”
Advent is indeed a time during which we are reminded of the prophecies concerning the coming of Christ to Palestine, of the place he would occupy in the redemption of the world, of the triumph through tragedy that he would embody. But it is more than that. The word itself means to come near, or to come toward. It has therefore served not only as reminder but as promise; He will come again, this time to finish what was begun in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It has been the promise of all of Scripture: God will complete what He began, and when He does it will be the one event, the one moment at which you and I really do want to be present.
In the long years, even centuries that intervene between promise and fulfillment, it is easy to be distracted by the things that go on in life. As life unfolds all of us in some way have a sense that things could be better than they are; and we hope that we will experience yet one more level of satisfaction or fulfillment that has eluded us. No matter how good we have it, it could be better (I am reminded here of the C. S. Lewis classic Surprised By Joy). That longing for something more, or for something that lasts longer than the always temporary euphoria produced by the best of human experiences just might be the longing for the kingdom in disguise. The kingdom, that is, is the hidden longing behind every desire we have. Faith assures us that it is so.
May our faith in what God has planned for us in the coming of Christ give us the vision to plan for that coming with even greater passion than that with which we plan for even the most joyous events in life. And may it encourage us to re-examine the value of some of those temporal goals.