Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dealing with the Unknown

Advent is an interesting time in the church year. As a child I enjoyed it because it meant the church would be filled with blue and silver and Christmas trees. There would be bright lights and that cool Advent wreath. We talked about Jesus' coming a lot--which as a child I connected with Jesus coming as a child in Bethlehem. But, as I grew up, I found that Advent was a bit more somber as we focused on the second coming of Christ. It sure is something to ponder. The Bible displays God in the second coming as someone who will judge. As Americans, this is not the most comfortable idea. We do not like being judged for anything--even if it's right or wrong! But I would like to look past the judgement seat to what lies beyond it: heaven; and, what makes heaven so noteworthy during Advent?
I felt like I should post some sort of response to the shooting in Connecticut. After mulling around the idea for a while, I found that plenty of people had already responded. Therefore, as I was rolling around in bed this morning, my mind saw the shooting in the context of Advent. 
The question is quite simple and complicated all at the same time. How do we react when stuff like this happens? It can either be something huge, or something more close to home. It can be war, or it can be a feud between neighbors that goes too far. It can be plane crashing into buildings, or it can be a "prank" call from a radio station to the wrong person. What do we say? What would you say to the person who had a child die in the school shooting? What would you say to the person who just lost their job? To the family members of someone who committed suicide? To someone whose parent was diagnosed with a slow and deadly disease? To someone living in Syria or in war-torn Africa? To someone living in China, Japan, or North Korea as the tensions rise? What on earth do we say? 
Well, despite our efforts to put God into our little defined boxes, it's not possible to define him. There are pages and pages we could fill of all the questions we have for him. We can try to put human explanations on the bad things and claim that God only works in the good times, but that removes him from his seat as God, does it not? The fact of the matter is that we don't know.  We don't know the grand picture. We don't know why we have a God that chooses to work through pain sometimes (if you don't think he does, look at the cross). We really don't have all the answers. But, we have some. We have what God revealed to us through Jesus. Which, leads us back to Advent. The world was never promised to be easy. The road was never promised to be short and sweet. There's nowhere in the Bible that says, "Make heaven happen on earth! It's possible if you work at it!" No, but it does say, "Come to me all you who are wear and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). We can only find peace in the promise of God for our eternal salvation. And, eternity is where heaven is. That's the place that's perfect. That is our true home. Revelation so clearly lays it out: "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (21:4). So if you've ever wondered why the prayer in Advent is, "Come, Lord Jesus..." this is why. The pain is terrible, and we don't know why. But we look forward to our promised salvation with Jesus forever.