Sermon today was on Luke 1:26-33, where the angel appears to Mary regarding the announcement of Jesus’ birth. I was particularly struck by this section of it;
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and his kingdom will have no end. (Luke 1:31-33).
This is what the prophets foretold, was it not? That the messiah would come and fix everything. Why? Israel had been in chaos then settled back into a Gentile run land, with no king and fading hope. But YET, here was the hope, the promised one, the eternal king who would reign forever. Hope had arrived in a manger.
And this is what the apostles were eager to see just before Jesus’ ascension, wasn’t it? He came down from heaven, revealed the fulness of the Godhead, put a permanent stamp on God’s eternal promises and set forth a new paradigm. He spoke of the new covenant through his blood and the promise of the Holy Spirit. They saw him die a brutal death but walk with him after his resurrection. But they just had to know, “Lord, is it at this time, you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” Why did they have to ask that? The answer is obvious. The king had come and it was a new day, filled with new things for God’s people. But something still wasn’t fixed.
The tensions of living in the already-but-not-yet. It fills us with hope though at times we are confronted with grief. This was so vividly present this morning as I journeyed to church, saddened by all the broken circumstances in my life, wondering how long I would be this persistent widow keep knocking, asking, hoping. Yet another Sunday I sat in church alone, at least wanting my son there by my side. Whatever confession of faith was made in his youth, the past 1 1/2 has seen a declining interest and in some cases a strong resistance to joining me.
Like so many enthralled with the trappings of contemporary evangelicalism, I had succumbed to the philosophy (and convenience) of having separate functions for the youth. Well, he’s not buying it anymore. And neither am I. But change is slow and hard and his reluctance to participate in any type of church is apparent. I repent and things remain broken.
So I sat and watched the nice little family perform the 2nd reflection of the Advent tradition, the mommy and daddy and their three teenage kids, all worshiping together, reflecting on our great King together. But I tried hard not to imagine what it would be like to have such a nice little intact family too – mommy and daddy and son, worship together. On side is the emptiness of spouse, even when he was alive not wanting to share in the things of God, resistant, hostile and unloving. On the other side, the emptiness of child. I try to hold back my dreams of imagination for the reality brings me grief. Confronted with all my failure and failings of the past that continue to bear on the present in various ways, is so hard at times. And I wonder if God will ever fix it. I pray and I hope for restoration. He is able and can do it. He can far exceed my wildest expectations or imaginations. Yet at the present, he has not. And somehow in the loss, I am supposed to be content.
Discouraged yet hopeful, I’m reminded of the book of Hebrews, that great sermon of hope delivered to Jewish Christians. They knew of the promises, the hope of Israel. Christ, the messiah, the king came and they believed. But something still wasn’t fixed. They suffered and wanted to go back to Moses. So the writer tells them to hold on, look at the all sufficiency of Christ, don’t turn back like their fathers in the wilderness. For the contemporary Gentile there are other temptation of unbelief that we can go back to. So equally applicable is this assurance;
Therefore, brethern, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for he who promised is faithful…(Hebrews 10:19-23)
He is faithful even we are not. One day everything will be fixed. But until then, can we not hope for just a glimmer of that reality? I am reminded – don’t give up and keep holding on. And in the pain of unfixedness, we can look ahead.
And he will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying or pain…(Revelation 21:4)