One thing I’ve come to embrace in my Christian journey is the value of tradition. Having spent my earlier Christian years in separatist and fundamentalistic circles, then later in Charismatic circles there was this common rejection of tradition on various levels. Well tradition is important because it grounds us in something sure. It creates a continuity with the past and gives support to what the church has always believed. The more the past is rejected in favor of something new, the more likely we are to get things askew.
And what greater time to reflect on the Christian faith than the beginning of the advent season. The intersection of deity and humanity, in the form of the incarnation. The promised king, the awaited messiah, the one the prophets proclaimed who would rescue and redeem.
But I also consider the setting and timing. Israel waited so long it seemed like hope would have dimmed. Under Roman rule, the relinquishment of their land to Gentile authority, the loss of a reigning king and the only relief in found in temple teaching and law obedience. Was this the way it was supposed to go? I bet many asked this question. Where was the deliverer who would set everything right and re-establish promises that have faded in the backdrop of waiting?
Hope faded. But hope now came. I’m reminded of Gal 4:4 – “but when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Think about it, hundreds of years of upheaval, loss, despair against the back drop of promises. But through all that God was working out his purpose. Then BAM! Just when it was needed, Christ descended from on high as a little infant, fully God yet fully human to live a sinless life, reveal the fullness of the Father, face an abandoning, brutal crucifixion…but then ascend to sit at the right hand of the Father.
And Romans 8:28 reminds me that God continues to work out his eternal purpose in Christ. Redemption did not stop at the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, but continues in this present age, so that the richness of grace may be received and experienced by those who will accept it, to gather as his body and proclaim his kingdom. And we know that God will continue to work everything out according to the council of his will (Ephesians 1:11) until that glorious day when Christ appears. He sits on his throne and waits…and waits…and waits, until the Father’s perfect timing, which only he knows for his glorious appearing. How ironic, Christ waiting…then BAM! It’s time for a second coming.
The start of this Advent season has coincided with my own reflections of God’s timing. If someone were to tell me that coming to Dallas to go to seminary would have been a time of drought, upheaval, excavation and trials, I would have not believed it. But the past couple of days I’ve been reflecting on the past four years – the contradictions, eruption of deferred grief, unanswered prayers, cries for correction and the endless streams of silence. This has not just happened this way at this time, but for a greater purpose. Have you gone through a time like that or in it now? Nothing has occurred that has not been ordained by God, not in any believers’ life. Nothing! When we think God was the most distant, he has in fact the most present at work behind the scenes in ways we can’t even imagine.
So as I anticipate transitions on a number of fronts, the start of this Advent season reminds me that God’s timing is always perfect. When we go through times like this, it can seem bleak and hopeless as we look out only to see an endless stretch of a road. We wonder, ‘Lord where are you?’ But I also consider that if God can orchestrate such magnificent and majestic events as the redemption of his people with such intricate details as the gathering of the Israelites, the implementation of the law with all its myriad complexities, the prophets, priests and kings, the disruptions and exile, the loss and misplacement. When I think about how he weaved all this together for the ultimate redemption in his Son, which he accomplished at just the right time, what is my life or your life? It is but a vapor, a glimmer, a speck to be so easily handled in the care of his loving hands no matter how unraveled, hopeless, or complicated it appears.
So then I am convinced that he is right there working it all out. He knows just the right time. And when it is time for changes, opened doors or answered prayers…BAM!