Wineskins Archive

December 4, 2013

Coming and Second Coming (Dec 2012)

Filed under: — @ 3:01 pm and

By Keith Brenton

I’m not sure why more Restoration Movement churches don’t follow a lectionary in their times of gathered worship. Maybe it’s because “we” didn’t come up with it; or feel a need to not participate in something contrived by mankind, even if it doesn’t pretend to be directly from God.

Surely there’s a great comfort and joy to be experienced in the knowledge that fellow believers are pondering some of the same thoughts and scriptures all over the world, each Sunday when they worship together. If in no other way, it might bring a small but greater measure of unity to the body of Christ.

Following virtually any one of the lectionaries would bring us together at the season called Advent at this time of year, a time when believers anticipate the return of Jesus by celebrating His incarnation. Former New Wineskins editor Greg Taylor encourages readers to be open to observing the gifts and treasures that this season brings, and gracEmail contributor Edward Fudge has shared his thoughts on it as well. This month, New Wineskins writers will largely be focusing on the “anticipating” aspect of Advent – assuming, of course, that the Mayans weren’t right – and examining what we believe and why.

Advent is not just Christmas – though it includes Christmas. Advent is more than a countdown of days until the jolly old chap brings gifts down the chimney after children have sat upon his lap dumbfounded and unable to remember what they wanted to ask him for and noddingly, wide-eyed, acquiesced to his generous suggestion of “some surprises.”

I think it is the idea of anticipating the second coming of Christ that also gives us pause at the idea of observing Advent.

Some of us don’t like surprises.

We want to know what’s coming.

Ask those with whom you worship about their views on the subject of Christ’s return/revealing, and you are likely to receive a wide variety of reactions, from those who have never really considered it … to those who were taught to be terrified of it … to others who have a sense of scriptures that at least seem to refer to it … to some who may have a very structured concept of it.

And among the folks in the last group, you might find very little agreement on the whens, the hows, the order-in-whiches, the literals and the symbolics, and the implications of their varied systems of viewing it.

We believers have a very scattered eschatology, a word which simply means “a study of last things.”

Our views of His return/revealing are scattered all over the map, all over the timeline of history, all over the parts of scripture we choose to emphasize or de-emphasize, all over the span of what want to believe or disbelieve.

We know Jesus promised to return or to be revealed, depending on how you wish to interpret the words He used.

The rest is handled in scripture with very veiled – sometimes prophetic and apocalyptic – language.

The truth is, we just don’t know a lot more about it. That, of course, is the one thing we don’t like, don’t like to admit, and don’t like to deal with.

We want to have all the answers.

But even Jesus, while walking among mankind in the flesh, didn’t have all the answers. The “when,” for instance:

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” ~ Matthew 24:36

He gave them signs to watch for, but had to repeat to His closest followers that it wouldn’t be for them to know when:

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” ~ Acts 1:6-7

Clearly, having the answers … is not the answer.

The answer to our curiosity is simple faith. It’s believing the reality of the prophecy. It’s looking forward to His return, the fulfillment of His kingdom promises, the restoration of all things, the judgment and the justice and the mercy.

It’s anticipating the ultimate goodness of how it all plays out, without having to know.

That’s what I believe, anyway.

Of course, I was one of those tongue-tied kids on Santa’s lap who loved surprises.

They often turned out to be much more wonderful that what I had asked for, planned, anticipated, or counted on:

Things I had never seen in the toy departments of the variety stores.

Things I hadn’t imagined or dreamed of seeing.

Sometimes things made by hand, that no store ever saw; things handed down from generations before; things Dad contrived in his woodshop and things Mom stitched on her Singer.

The difference, of course, is that we know what date Christmas comes – whether it happens to be the date of Jesus’ birth or not. The difference is that the times and dates of the Son of Man’s return are all wrapped up in the extraordinary surprise that is to come.

Jesus’ answer to his disciples’ questions was simple: “Watch.” Keep your heads up. Keep your eyes on the skies – just as wise men did at the time of His incarnation. Be ready.


Something – someOne – wonderful is on the way.

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