Does Advent in your parish serve as a season of anticipation for the second coming of Christ? It is to focus on preparing us for both comings, the first in Bethlehem and the second in glory, but Christmas preparation has gained huge precedence in the last century.
It wasn’t always thus. Advent was once a time for hearing about the last four things, death, judgment, heaven and hell. A word about heaven is apt here.
The Scriptures teach that we were made by the God of heaven, in Jesus Christ heaven begins now on earth, and we are ultimately destined for the fullness of that heaven. And what is heaven? A place of rejoicing in and seeing God’s glory reflected in creation, a place of family reunion, of ultimate worship, of the final homecoming, and of the joyful face to face encounter with God himself who loves us more than we could ever imagine.
Why focus on our ultimate destiny? Because one of the most profound ways in which to think of the church is as a little glimpse of heaven on earth. So who are we called to be? A place where people are stewards over and delighters in God’s creation, a place of rich fellowship, where the stranger is welcomed and given refuge, a place of deep worship, where God is encountered in his full glory, a place of real homecoming, where people are safe to love and be loved and to develop their gifts for ministry in a context where they are free to
fail, and, finally, a place where God’s face is truly seen. Wow.
There is a vision for every church in the twenty-first century. I pray that God might grant us the grace to embrace this vision and to move forward into it together as the new millennium begins.
The Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall S. Harmon Courtesy of the Anglican Digest