Week One: Our Final Destination
Long before management consultants used the phrase, "Begin with the end in mind," the Church has been celebrating the season of Advent. One of the main themes in this season is how our ultimate destiny is unity with God, and how we end up there. To accomplish this, Advent walks you backwards in time. The first Sunday always deals with Christ's second coming, or as some people refer to it, "The End Times." Far from being a terrifying ordeal, Christ's second coming is the time when our created world is finally united fully with God, and all those things that went wrong are set right. Consider this image from the Book of Revelation.
Rev 21:1-5 (NRSV) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
The idea of God being personally and physically present with human beings is extremely comforting, and let's us know of our divine destiny. Look also at what no longer remains. Death is no more, as well as mourning, and crying, and pain. The world is being set right.
Weeks Two and Three: The Kingdom Has Come Near
The world gets there because the Kingdom of God comes to its fullest expression, which is the theme for weeks two and three. These readings center around John the Baptist, whose job it was to prepare people for Jesus' earthly ministry. When Jesus first began preaching, his message was simple, "The Kingdom of God is near; repent, and believe inthe good news (Mark 1:15 NRSV)." The Kingdom of God represents everything that the world is supposed to be. Sins are forgiven. Infirmaties are healed. Enemies become friends. People have an intimate connection to God. The language of "Kingdom" is used to describe this incredible transformation taking place.
The other miraculous gift of this kingdom is that through Jesus Christ, its coming is inevitable. The process has already begun. Jesus would sometimes compare the kingdom to salt (Matthew 5:13-16) and yeast (Matthew 13:33). If you were to work with each of these kitchen items, you would know that once introduced to a recipe, they are there for good. Once salt is mixed with a dish it will always affect its flavor. Once yeast is mixed into a measure of flour, it will consume the sugars and create pockets of carbon dioxide, which causes the dough to rise. Jesus uses these metaphors to describe the unstoppable progress of the Kingdom of God.
Week Four: The Kingdom Makes Its First Appearance
This kingdom entered our world through the person of Jesus Christ. If our divine destiny is unity with God, it begins with a single person who is both perfectly human and perfectly God - Jesus Christ. The fourth, and final Sunday of Advent deals with the moments leading up to Christ's birth - the entrance of the one who already enjoyed perfect unity with God, and how He affected all that He came into contact with as a result. Usually at this time of year people are getting ready for their Christmas celebrations, and appropriately so. The miracle of Christmas is the unity of God and humanity in the person of Jesus Christ - a miracle that resonates through time and space, leading us as humans to our divine destiny of unity with God.