What is the future you want to come home to?
During the season of Advent I suspect most of us can call up some of our very best memories of coming home to a place of festivity and welcome by those who love us. Unfortunately that is not true for everyone.
I just came back from the bank on a beautiful brisk sunny day. For the first time I sensed that the teller, I will call Tamara, was troubled. She told me today that she is from Syria. Tamara, with evident concern, admitted that she is not sure if her parents are safe or not. I left the bank with a sinking feeling that she has no idea if she will ever come home again or if her parents will survive the ongoing violence.
As we celebrate Advent 2013 there are over 2 million Syrians who are not only refugees but many of them are at risk because of the ongoing war. At least 600,000 Filipinos are homeless this Christmas and countries all over the world are rushing to their aid. 172.000 Haitians are still in temporary shelters after the earthquake that destroyed their homes some time ago. Finally, there are still around 1.5 million Palestinians living in 58 refugee camps on the West Bank, Gaza, Jordon, Lebanon and other countries in the region for decades that have little hope of coming home.
As followers of Jesus how we respond to the urgent needs of our many homeless neighbors will be determined in part by notions of the future we believe Jesus invites us to come home to.
I was not raised in the church. I was converted into an evangelical faith. I was taught that coming home to God’s eternal world was all about my disembodied spirit going up to a non-material world in the clouds. Many people nurtured in this faith are still singing a song that I believe has more to do with the writings of Plato than the teachings of Jesus….”This world is not my home… I am just a passing through.”
Doesn’t popular eschatological literature of escape invite us to imagine going up at the rapture… leaving our clothes behind on airplane seats and leaving all the suffering behind? My first concern with this view of God’s purposes for the human future is that I am convinced it isn’t biblical. My second concern is that people who hold this view often seem to have very little concern for those that are left behind or even for the urgent needs that fill our world today.
Don’t most of the songs that Christians sing about coming home seem to be about us going up instead of Jesus coming down? We urgently need song writers to help us find some new images about coming home to this good world being restored and not destroyed.
In Surprised by Hope NT Wright invites us to re-discover a biblical vision of coming home that is not to a disembodied existence in the clouds. Instead he reminds us that the scripture teaches that that Jesus is coming down, the New Jerusalem is coming down…we are not going up. He argues convincingly from 1st Corinthians 15 that we will come home to a restored creation as a great bodily resurrected intercultural community…real bodies but different bodies just like our risen Leader.
One cannot read the Gospels or the prophets without realizing that God’s loving purposes are not just about changing us spiritually… as important as that is. God in Christ intends to make all things new. I am looking forward to coming home to a future in which the blind see, the deaf hear and lame run. I am looking forward to coming home to a future in which the broken are healed and all the refugees find their way home. I look forward to a future in which justice finally comes for the poor and oppressed and peace comes to the nations. I look forward to coming home to a future in which God’s good creation isn’t destroyed but restored with great celebration.
So Advent for me is always a great celebration of our best memories of coming home. But it is also an anticipatory celebration of the return of Christ when all things are finally made new.
Can I suggest this is not only a season of anticipation and celebration but a season of calling. Aren’t we called during this season of Advent to follow Jesus by making God’s purposes our purposes? Aren’t we called not to seek life but to lose life in service to God and others? Shouldn’t we as followers of Jesus to recommit our lives to God’s loving purposes for a people and a world?
I come to this season looking forward to Christine and I cooking and celebrating with friends old and new. It is my favorite season of the year. I am already planning the meals I plan to prepare.
But this year I feel nudged to find an intentional way to be a bit of God’s good news in my community every week. I made a call before I wrote this blog post to find a place I can make a little difference locally.
How is God inviting you during this season of Advent to not only celebrate the great homecoming but also to give expression to it in your neighborhood or God’s larger world?
Let us hear how you plan to both celebrate God’s great homecoming and seek to more actively advance it where you live.
Have a great celebration of Advent as homecoming with those you love.
Tom Sine is research guy at Mustard Seed Associates and hospitality guy at the Mustard Seed house. He has worked for many years as a consultant in futures research and planning for both Christian and secular organizations. His latest book is The New Conspirators