Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Of Babies, Advent, and the Kingdom of God

This week is the first Sunday of Advent. Our scriptures are Jeremiah 33:14-16 and Luke 1:68-79.

We're really blessed in our congregation to have three (count'em 3) babies on the way. And since it is a professional and personal habit (some would say liability) to be theologically inclined, I've done a lot of theological reflection lately on pregnancy, Advent, and the Kingdom of God.

It seems to me that the Kingdom of God is a great deal like having a baby. We're promised that it's coming. We're told that there is this wonderful thing on the way. We're even told what signs to look for. Listening to expectant mothers talk about all the things going on with them as they come closer and closer to their due dates can be really interesting. They're watching the signs.

Now imagine for a moment that when the baby comes, you have some ideas about who it's going to be and what it's going to do. But it's not doing them yet. The child will have to grow into what it is meant to be. Jesus had to do that too. In fact, one of the reasons that some gospel's didn't make it into the canon for inclusion into our Bible is that they had little Jesus and infant Jesus doing things that were reduced to magic tricks as opposed to expressions of the coming of the Kingdom.

I think the Kingdom of God is a lot like that: it's coming; it's here; it's unfolding; it will have a final expression.

For us at Advent, we celebrate that it's coming...even though we also believe that it's already here. Jesus has already come. And in that coming He ushered in the Kingdom of God in the here-and-now. Before you jump on me about this go look up Luke 17:21 where Jesus says, "the Kingdom of God is among (or within) you." He also taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
Advent is a time when we focus on a coming Kingdom that is also already here.

One of my favorite Fred Craddock quotes is that there are a lot of 'second coming' christians who haven't dealt with the first coming. Advent is about preparing for and dealing with the 'first coming.' Not just the baby...but the cries for justice. The inclusion of the outcast. The healing of the wounded. And our place in the Kingdom's expression today...here...where we are.

We look at Jesus; at His birth, His life, His death and resurrection....not because they take us off the hook in our responsibility for the Kingdom; but because they show us what living up to that responsibility looks like.

Advent then is both celebration and challenge. Can we prepare ourselves this Advent for both?

See you Sunday.

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