In the Christian calendar, there are two periods of time – two seasons – that are really meant to get us thinking practically about our lives. More than just times of celebration or remembrance, these two seasons are supposed to put us to work. One of these times you might already know about; the season of Lent.
In Lent it is traditional to give something up, to fast, in an attempt to strengthen our faith in the abundant resources of God.
The other practical season in the Christian year is Advent.
The thing is, unlike during Lent, there are not too many Advent specific practices or traditions designed to deepen our Spiritual connection with God.
But maybe there should be…
This past Sunday, one of the passages of Scripture assigned for the Church to read was a portion of 2 Peter, chapter 3.
Peter starts out this chapter by warning the faithful that there will come a time when the scoffers (the cynics of the world) will be out in full swing. They’ll be living by their own desires and saying things like; “You said Jesus was coming back to ‘make all things new’, so where is he? Nothing has changed. Things are exactly the same today as they always have been, since the very beginning of time. People are people, it’s naive to think that anything will be different in the future.”
If I’m honest, on some days I am tempted to agree with them. The evidence does seem to suggest that what has been always will be.
However, Peter says, what these cynical scoffers are not noticing is God’s Voice; the Word that created the cosmos out of the chaotic waters of the abyss in the beginning of Genesis, and then allowed those same chaotic waters to flood and destroy the earth. The cynics are tuning out this creative Voice, which is now waiting to purify the world.
Of course, the cynics will shoot back; “Really? That’s what is gonna happen? When? It seems like God is taking his sweet time carrying out this grand scheme of restoration.”
But is God being slow? According to Peter, No! That is simply misunderstanding how God relates to time.
One day for us is like a thousand years for God. And a thousand years for us is like one day for God. The creator of time isn’t slow, as we understand the concept.
Instead, God is patient.
Apparently, God doesn’t want anyone to experience the chaotic abyss of death, but instead wants all to repent and live. God actually wants me to reject cynicism and fear, and embrace peace and joy! So God patiently withholds his promised reckoning to allow time for this to work it’s way into my heart.
Eventually, the moment of God’s judgement will come – and it’ll come like a thief.
A thief sneaks in, unannounced. You don’t know he’s coming, and you don’t know he’s there…until it’s too late.
You realize that the thief has taken what you hold dear, stolen it from you.
I wonder, what are the things that I hold dear? What am I secretly afraid that God might steal from me? What am I afraid God is already in the process of taking away?
My financial security?
My sense of control?
Peter doesn’t let his foot off the gas.
On this day of judgement, when God gets the final say on everything…
The heavens – all that seemed constant, unshakable, stable – will pass away.
The elements – the material things that I believed were so vital to my being, so central to who I am and the evidence of my effort in this life – will be destroyed, as if melted in a fire.
And maybe most dreadful, all of the works and deeds done on earth will be exposed for what they truly are – my resume of good deeds will be scrutinized, my shameful secrets will be made public, my true character will be put on display.
So, says Peter, if this is how things are going to go down, how might I want to live? What sort of person ought I to be?
I must live a holy & Godly life!
I should live in such a way that I am anticipating, even egging on this coming moment of judgement! I’m compelled to live such a life that I’m not the least bit anxious of being scrutinized by God’s divine Bullshit Meter.
After all, this day may result in a massive re-evaluation of my priorities (the heavens & the earthly elements are passing away), but I claim to hope and believe in the promise that there is a NEW heaven and a NEW earth coming.
In this coming new creation, living at peace with God, myself, others, and the world around me won’t seem to be a struggle, but will feel RIGHT. Righteousness finally will be at home!
So while I’m waiting for all this happen, I should act as if it already has!
I should make every effort to live in peace and joy. I pray that my actions and deeds will be pure and blameless; unafraid of being exposed.
And here is the beautiful Goodness of this all. I must recognize that God isn’t after me! God isn’t against me! If God wanted me to burn, why wait? I’ve given him plenty of reason to take me out already. It’s not like he needs more evidence.
God simply keeps on loving me.
Peter says that I should embrace and rejoice over God’s patience. Consider it salvation!
Every day that I’m not crashing and burning as a result of my selfish fear and pride is a day that I have another chance at responding to grace.
Everyday that I’m not dead or worse is a day that I can joyfully accept the life I’ve been freely given.
Everyday that I’m not having the places of darkness within my soul exposed to the world is a day that I can be open to letting in a bit more light.
Each new day is yet another opportunity to practice gratitude.
We typically think of Advent as a time of anticipation and waiting. Advent is when we are waiting for God, waiting for our coming salvation.
But what if we were to think of Advent differently? What if we have it backwards?
Maybe Advent is God waiting for us. Perhaps this season of anticipation could be more of a reminder of God’s deep love and long-suffering grace towards me. A time of active repentance in which I can recommit myself to living AS IF the New heaven and the New earth have come, and righteousness finally is at home.
As I prepare for the coming of God, may I work to prepare the way.
Unafraid of condemnation or retribution, may I utilize God’s compassionate patience this Advent to own up to the junk within my own soul — to honestly admit my pride, fears, and resentments to myself and others.
And may I return to the Voice of God that created the cosmos and is calling me back home.