Today’s posts come from Melanie Clark Pullen. I decided to break her reflection into two parts because it so rich with imagery and thoughts about the second coming of Christ. Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow morning. Or if you can’t wait visit the original post on her blog Parousia; Perchance to Dream .
14 days till Christmas.
What are we waiting for?
Have you done your Christmas shopping?
Are you prepared? Have you the Christmas tree up? The turkey pre-ordered? Have you checked the Christmas tree lights to check what bulbs aren’t working?
Are you having palpitations at the very thought of everything you have to do before December the 25th? I have recurring nightmares of it being ten to midnight on Christmas eve and realising that I’ve forgotten to get one of my family a Christmas present.
Christmas is such a stressful time. We’re cajoled into being jolly and merry and spending time with family many of us spend the rest of the year avoiding. We’re lured into buying more stuff for people who don’t need it. If I’m given one more box of bath salts or hand cream… I mean, just what are you trying to tell me? Then there’s the wrapping and packaging that, no matter how carefully it is put together gets ripped off in a matter of seconds and, at best, gets recycled and at worse goes into land fill!
Then there’s the guilt. All the charities come out with their demands that we don’t forget the homeless, the hungry, the neglected donkeys at this special time of year. There is so much need. We can’t possibly be expected to donate money to every worthy cause.
And the travelling. Who’s travelling to visit family or friends this Christmas? Last year, the snow nearly scuppered our trip north to spend Christmas with my father in law. I was stressed the whole week leading up to the drive. And there was the worry about traffic, driving on slippery roads with two small children in the back.
Christmas. Who needs it?
Every year I make a vain attempt to focus on the reason for the season but inevitably I get sucked into the vortex which is the commercial secular holiday that Christmas has become and it sometimes feels like I’m waiting for the whole darn thing to be over!
What are we waiting for?
Christmas – When the God who breathed stars into existence entered into our broken and blistered world as a vulnerable new born baby.
Christmas – When the Creator became the created.
Christmas – the Incarnation – two worlds colliding in spectacular simplicity and heartfelt humility.
But that’s Christmas.
Sunday was the third Sunday of Advent. This season is the beginning of the liturgical year when as followers of the Risen Christ we turn our attention not only to the first incarnation of God but the second coming.
If I’m honest, until recently when anyone mentioned the Second Coming my thoughts would go to a horrible movie from the 70s called A Thief in the Night, or the Left Behind series of books which imagine a dramatic rapture of Christians out of the world which is left behind to endure a horrific time of tribulation. When we think of the Second Coming, we might think of Armageddon, the End Times, a final Judgement. All in all, it’s something we don’t think about very often, much less talk about in polite society. I bet, I’m already making some people squirm.
Certainly much of this imagery is drawn from the prophecy attributed to Jesus in Mark’s gospel:
The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth and the ends of the heavens.
The early Christians expected Jesus’ return within their life time. The first disciples had witnessed the resurrected Christ and taught his return to make all things new was immanent. So apostles like Paul urged the believers to be always ready for when the Lord would be ‘revealed’ – as we see in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.
The piece in Mark has been suggested to have been a reference to the fall of Jerusalem in AD70 when many would have seen it as the end of the world. And in the centuries since there have been predictions of Armageddon when it’s felt that things can not get much worse and things inevitably must end. This year there was a very public predicition that the world would end in May by American pastor Harold Camping. When it didn’t, he recalculated for October. He has since retired from ministry, disappointed and disillusioned, albeit admitting that God is sovereign and that he has been humbled by his experience.
Outside of our own faith there’s a belief that the year 2012 has a strong spiritual significance and that, if not the end of the world, it marks the beginning of a new consciousness.