Thursday, December 10, 2015

Advent Meditation

“God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God...who for us and for our salvation came down” is how one of the early creeds put it. “It,” of course, is Advent. From the Latin adventus meaning “coming,” the word describes a period of preparation, four weeks in length, during which, for centuries, the church has both remembered and reflected on Christ’s first “coming” and anticipated His second and final “coming” (what Paul called the parousi√a). 
I observe, however, that we contemporary Christians are much better at celebrating the first coming of Christ than anticipating the final one. My, how we love the Baby of Bethlehem! He’s so sweet, so gentle, so cuddly lying there in the manger. We don’t need a Cosmic Christ splitting the sky and melting the universe like a dream. The Baby gives us all we need. 
And when we do reflect on His final Advent, it’s more often than not a matter of curiosity. 
“When will it be?”
“Do you have signs of His coming?”
“Do you know the date or place of His coming?” 
Others are too frightened to think about it. Already they’re planning on taking an incomplete, or perhaps calling in sick that day. ;-) 
But it was not so for the first Christians. For them life was both difficult and dangerous, and Advent wasn’t just a time for remembering the Baby of Bethlehem; it was a time for hoping, perhaps the most audacious thing a Christian can do! For the earliest saints, all through the ages, His final coming (His parousi√a ) was a matter of great hope and anticipation, always looking for it, going outside and searching the heavens for a star, listening to the children ask: “When Jesus comes, will he have supper at our house?” They prayed this, you know: “Come Lord Jesus.” Maranatha
The word is an Aramaic word, which means that it almost certainly reflects the worship and prayer life of the earliest Jewish Christians, used only once in the entire NT (1 Cor. 16:22 ei“ tiß ouj fileiæ to;n kuvrion, h[tw ana◊qema. mara◊na qa◊. “If anyone does not love the LORD, let him be anathema. Maranatha.) The Aramaic word can be divided in two different ways: maran- atha and marana-tha. Depending on where it is divided, it can mean either “Our LORD comes” (statement) or Our LORD, come!” (prayer). John, writing in the Book of Revelation (22:20) answers the question for us of where to divide the word when he translates maranatha into Greek: Amhvn, e“rcou kuvrie =Ihsou:. “Amen! Come, LORD Jesus!” We now know, thanks to John, that it was a prayer, not a statement, perhaps the earliest prayer Christians ever prayed.
And even today, there are Christians in places where to be a Christ-follower almost certainly means hardship, suffering, and even death, who dare hope this year for Christ’s coming in a way most of us, scurrying about with packages tightly tucked in our arms, cannot imagine; though perhaps some day soon, we shall! 
“Very God of Very God...who for us and for our salvation came (and comes!) down.” Something to think about this year while you’re putting out the Nativity. 
mara◊na qa,◊ 


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