In this article by Bishop Mike Hill.Bishop Mike talks about the subject of Advent and imparticular looks forward, unpacking some of the season's themes. Bishop Mike then offers the suggestion that if we take Advent seriously there could be serious implications for the way we live.
It seems a bit weird to say that I love the season of Advent, given that probably it’s a non-event for most people other than as a shopping season. Although chocolate calendars mean people know the word, I suspect that most people don’t understand its content. I sometimes wonder whether the same is true in many churches.
I have said many times that eschatology (the study of the Last Things – Heaven, Hell, Judgement etc) is the Cinderella of the modern Church. Of course, an over interest in the end times has been an excuse for living with the status quo in the present. Clearly that is hardly a helpful way to be.
Surely it is something to do with the sovereignty of God: that He is the Lord of history and that means He is Lord of the end of history. True, the Bible uses extravagant language to describe this and history is littered with the vain attempts of others to second guess when God will draw down the final curtain on this age. For many Christians, the idea that Jesus will return is frankly quaint
It seems clear that when Paul wrote First Corinthians, he thought that the Second Coming of Christ was “just round the corner”. Now that two thousand years have lapsed, let’s be honest, it doesn’t make it easy for us to think about these things today!
We are, as many have noted very much a culture of the here and now. We are tempted to ignore the future consequences of the way we live today. The environment, sustainable economic models at one level; indebtedness, health concerns, at another.
But just because we don’t know what to do with eschatology surely can’t mean that we can lapse in to the default position of ignoring it. I find the themes of Advent important for a number of reasons.
- It brings a sense of urgency to my vocation, as a Christian and as a bishop;
- It makes me accountable for the way I live my life;
- It inspires me to want to do all I can to make the world a bigger and better place now;
- It means I have to talk mission, but I can’t ignore evangelism.
But ultimately the season of Advent brings hope. Let me close with some words of Barack Obama, from his inaugural address in 2009.
“At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation [George Washington] ordered these words be read to the people:
“ ‘Let it be told to the future world … that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive … that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].’
“America,” continued Obama. “In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”
Even so, come Lord Jesus…