13th Day of Advent: Malachi’s Messiah

I believe that prophesies are frameworks–outlines that could reach their fullness in a number of different ways. The Creator makes different choices than we would, even with our own ideas. As time passes, the unwelcome words of prophets ferment into wishful thinking. The bias is in the hearer: we are only human.

Malachi’s Messiah is a force apart, purifying Israel. The Golden Gate, next to Al-Aqsa mosque, is bricked-over as if to symbolically preclude Malachi’s messiah. But Malachi was not the only prophet talking about the need for a Messiah. Yet by the time Jesus came, and even in the centuries since, he was rejected by so many. The Messiah had turned from a force for accountability to a virtual super-hero: Captain Israel. I’m not joking… there is a Captain Israel comic book. It’s just as silly as it sounds, by the way.

Jesus has no laser vision but his gaze will burn our faults. Christ’s arms had no super-human strength to break the cross that he hung upon, but his divine heart kept them pinned there as a testimony to his commitment. Indeed, Malachi’s description is directly in-step with the Jesus we know: a refining fire for all those whose pride has bound them. He is a force of justice for widows, the cheated, and the foreigner.

However, now more than ever, we are enamored with instant solutions. Perhaps this lust for ease undergirds the myths of redemptive violence that permeate our country–the idea that we could explode and shoot our way to a solution. We might also delude ourselves that grace works automatically, without our need to actively accept and live through grace each day. We should be older and wiser by now: nothing of quality was ever achieved quickly.

The refinement Jesus brings to us is challenging, sometimes even ugly, and requires our commitment. Jesus offered to share a yoke with us, not pull us in a wagon. We have to daily undertake the work of realizing what it means to have a Messiah like Jesus and how we are going to be the body of Christ that day. The fruits of our sweaty labor are beautiful, though, beyond what can be portrayed in books.

In the mean time, Christmas is a good time to remember that everyone begins as a child. Christ reminds us again and again throughout the Gospel how important it is to understand ourselves as children of this Kingdom.

A reflection by John Daniel Gore

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JD is a Methodist missionary living in Bethlehem and serving in Palestine. JD tweets from@Xavier_Phoenix and blogs from xavierphoenix.wordpress.com

7th Day of Advent: Faithful Readiness – Luke 21:25-36

Neo: Why do my eyes hurt?

Morpheus: You’ve never used them before.

It’s hard to read the Gospel accounts where Jesus clearly gets things wrong. Here in these verses, Luke has Jesus declaring all these creepy cosmic signs of the end times, and it’s clear in these words that Jesus thinks it all will happen sometime very soon.

People will faint from fear… the seas and the waves will roar… the Son of Man will come on a cloud…

Be on guard… the day will come and catch you like a trap…

Holy crap. Really? Jesus seemed to be a whole lot more alarmist about the end-times than we care to realize.

Bart Ehrman wrote a book called Jesus: The Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium in which he argues that Jesus was first and foremost an apocalyptic prophet who wrongly believed the end was coming soon—maybe even during his lifetime.

Perhaps he was.

Luke makes Jesus sound like all the crazies out there. The ones who are much more interested in instilling fear than in instilling faith. The ones who put judgment where love is supposed to go. The ones who are much more interested in counting the sins of others than in reminding themselves that God’s grace doesn’t know anything about counting.

What are we to do with this?

First off, with all of this language here about distress and foreboding and being alert, I don’t see anything here about judgment. I see words of warning and counsel, and, yes, they are still quite intimidating, but there’s nothing in here about who is in and who is out.

Maybe the Kingdom of God doesn’t have a cosmic bouncer standing outside of it. Maybe it’s not even a place we wait to get into. Maybe the Kingdom of God is where we already are–we just need eyes that open to it.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus seemed interested in having others realign their sight to the sight of God. To replace the priorities of the world with the priorities of a new kind of life—one where God’s desires for this world are put above all else. A kingdom that exists right here and right now as well as in the world to come. On earth as it is in the heavens.

I can only agree with Bart Ehrman on this one—Jesus got it wrong (or at least Luke’s version of Jesus gets it wrong). There may be no cosmic ending in our immediate future and time spent waiting for one is time wasted.

Advent is filled with a different sort of waiting.

Advent is about waiting for the present to reveal itself to us rather than waiting for the future to collapse upon us.

It’s a time when we wait with faithful readiness. A time to hope and listen for something new to spring forth among us and renew us. When the world gets rearranged once again by divine priority. When we are invited once more to see what God desires for it.

Advent is when we wait for new and full meaning to invade a world that too often feeds us with stale and empty meaning.

May this advent be one that throws light into the dark corners of this world. May this Advent be one that opens our eyes to the reality of a new heaven and a new earth. A new order revealing itself right in front of us, if only we use our eyes as we’ve never used them before.

A reflection by Pat Ryan.

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Pat is a candidate for ministry in the PC(USA) and is ready for a call. He tweets at @writingpat. You can see where Pat blogs at his about.me page.