Is today the day? You know, the Mayan calendar thing, according to which the world would end in December of this year, and in some interpretations, today would be the day. Yes, I’m skeptical. Very.
Today’s Advent texts talk about a more hopeful vision for the completion of God’s program for the inhabitants of this planet, and about how that completion might be recognized. Even more, they invite our participation in what God is doing. Isaiah 35:3-7; Luke 7:18-30; Psalm 126.
While there may be much speculation about what the Mayan calendar did and did not predict (the end of the calendar is just that; it stopped with December of 2012, with no spectacular, apocalyptic sorts of things leading to a catastrophic end of the world), the coming of the kingdom of God has definite markers. They are not markers circumscribed by dates on a calendar, however. They are, in fact, the same signs as were given as signs of the Messiah’s coming to the land of God’s people, Israel. Blind eyes will be opened; deaf ears will be unstopped; the lame will leap; the speechless will shout and sing; life-giving water will abound and dry ground will flourish as a result. That is good news, for sure.
But what about the rest of us? What about those of the vast majority who are neither blind, deaf, lame, or mute? What about those who want for nothing that is needed for the enjoyment of life? Can there really be much that is not only good, but great news in the coming of Christ? Isn’t that the in some ways the proverbial elephant in the room when we talk about the riches of Christ? People feel rich enough, healthy enough as it is, wise enough as it is.
Or do they? In the days of John the Baptist, we read that “all the people” went out to the wilderness to hear him, maybe to see him as some sort of odd spectacle they had heard about. But they heard him, regardless of the reason for which they had made the initial trip out of town. And whether before hearing him, while hearing him, or afterward, something resonated and told them that he spoke the truth about their falsely constructed lives. Falsely constructed, life is not prepared to see and embrace Christ; hence John went before Jesus, preparing the way.
There are two parts to this message of salvation; one is the announcement, and the other the coming. We cannot control the latter; we are responsible for the former. And we do the announcing with even grater confidence than that with which John was filled. “With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees, . . .say to those who are afraid, be strong, and do not fear . . ..” (Isa. 35:3-4, NLT) The news is the coming of Christ and His kingdom. That Christ is the One who makes all things new, including but not limited to the healing of blindness, lameness, and weakness of all kinds. When we are tempted to see nothing good in this news for us we betray both a self-centered focus which is the greatest form of blindness, and a heart quite unprepared for his coming.
Let us not be so unprepared; and then may we announce the true signs of the end of life as we know it. It is good news.