I have really enjoyed our Advent sermon series “Let There Be …”, particularly the imagery and the development of the metaphor of light and darkness as it relates to Jesus’ coming. As much as I love the Advent Conspiracy, it felt due to move through Advent in a different way and I’m confident that many were able to keep the missional dimension of Christmas. Once again, it’s been a meaningful Advent for me. But meaningful means I’ve had to hash it out, throw things at it, process and find something redemptive so here’s a bit of my Advent journaling.
“Light and darkness” are such excellent metaphors of Jesus’ coming. But the over-churched part of me knows how a month-long metaphor could lose its steam as there is only so much you could do with light and darkness, right? All this said, my one problem with the metaphor that I’ve been dragging around all Advent is this – Even after we experience the light of Jesus, we still experience the darkness of the world. What do we do with that?
It’s often been hoped for that upon encountering and receiving Jesus, all your problems disappear. If God needed a consultant, I would suggest this: “Almighty Father, if we’re really serious about filling our churches on planet earth, we should have clear and obvious rewards upon conversion and have incentives as each “believer” continues on. Christianity has it backwards, where you commit all this time, energy, heart and life up front on an invitation with the possibility of some heavenly reward. People who do this are either naive or have great faith but it’s not a doorbuster idea.” This is how consulting works right?
I mean what if upon belief there was no more darkness in your life? Before Jesus, you find yourself oppressed with the darkness of bankruptcy, chronic illness, and broken relationships, then after Jesus, you are experiencing the radiance of financial stability, good health, and true community. That doesn’t feel like we’re asking for too much. I could have easily exaggerated the point and said, after Jesus, we should become perfectly healthy, lottery winning, A-list celebrity.
What I think most of us would he happy with is a clear demarkation between a life of “Before Jesus” and “After Jesus.” Many of us want something that justifies our faith – we want to see the darkness truly give way to the light … and stay that way. So, if Jesus came to get rid of the darkness, why is there still darkness in our lives?
Or what about taking the light and darkness literally? It would be so captivating if our scientists said something like, “Interesting thing about our world. We use to have day … and night! Yes, it’s hard to imagine in all our completely daytime world now, but 2000 years ago, we had a night time. That was until Jesus came to earth and cast out the darkness and now there is no night time, just daylight.” They would explain our earth used to rotate around its axis and our sun could only hit half the planet at once and there would be a scientific explanation of how the whole earth experienced light today. A clear line of Jesus bringing light and casting out darkness verified by science? I’d settle for that too.
At this point, at least three things could happen. One is that a real scientist is going to take me too literally and point out something that few of us will really understand. Second, some might find my skeptical tone to be sacrilegious and irreverent. This is not my intention. But third, and what I am hoping for, is that our honest wonder might move us to deeper faith. No one can tell us why God does the things He chooses to do. And of course God does not need consulting in order to fill our churches and increase the amount of faith on our planet.
All the earlier questions I posed earlier are in essence, looking to find salvation through reason and without need for faith. Which is something the Bible is not really interested in. Paul writes the just shall live by … logic, common sense, data … that doesn’t sound right, one second, let me look it up, ok here it is , oh right, Romans 1:17 says, “The just shall live by faith.” Even more in John 20, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen but still believe.” The way of God is based on faith and this changes everything.
Perhaps another way of seeing the problem with why there is is still darkness after experiencing light is asking a similar question – Why did the people that Jesus healed still die later on? Maybe he could have tried a little harder. Putting on my consultant hat again, just Imagine if these people were still alive as in healed permanently and the witness they could provide. Scientists doing carbon dating testing on these 2000 year old humans would also help my “faith” right?
To cut to the chase, what’s helped bring perspective to my faith has been understanding that Jesus is inviting us to live in a better world. That sounds like escapism until we point out that it was God’s original vision of this world until we broke it and let the darkness in. So when Jesus heals, he is in affect saying the Kingdom of God proclaims that disease and death are not in control, there is a power even greater. When we sit at our funerals and find the pain nearly unmanageable and think to ourselves, “It just shouldn’t be this way.” Jesus is in effect saying, “You’re right it wasn’t supposed to be. There is life in me.”
This is what Dave Ripper’s message was pointing us to last Sunday. Jesus doesn’t bring all of heaven to earth, but rather he shows us a beautiful glimpse of it. The Kingdom of God announces that sin, evil, and demise are not the final conclusion, there is a better outcome that leads to an unimaginable new beginning. The Kingdom of God boasts that oppression, selfishness and hate will not ultimately prevail but instead freedom, selflessness, and love will reign paramount. In Jesus, we see all these things, healing, freedom, love, salvation and this is why He is the light of the world. This is how Advent, metaphors, and prayer shape my faith. God uses such things and more to deepen our meaning of Christmas and for this, we can be grateful.