In Advent We
Begin With the End in Mind
He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more…
As I write, services for President George H.W. Bush are still under way at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. If you’ve been following them – and if you followed those for Barbara Bush this past spring –you’ll note that they are a marvelous testimony to classic Christian faith. The prayers, the hymns, the selections from Scripture: they all point to promise of life we have in our Lord.
But it was today’s Scripture lesson (read by Jenna Bush) that struck me as most apropos. The full text was Revelation 21:1-4; 23-25, and I highlighted just a bit of it above. What strikes me is that it fits hand-in-glove with the season we are celebrating now.
Advent: it’s the time when Christians look forward to, not so much the birth of the baby Jesus at Christmas, for that has already taken place. (Although we do look to this birth as God breaking into human history, setting in motion a process of healing and restoration that will never end.) But we look forward primarily to the return of our Lord at the end of time to be setting all things right. It is on this note that the Christian year begins.
Did you know that the seasons of the church year are arranged in calendar form? Those we’re most familiar with are likely Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost…although a few other significant events are celebrated along the way. But the important thing to note is that the church calendar year always begins with Advent – when we look forward to the coming of the Lord to bring healing, restoration and wholeness in their fullest forms, to be ushering in an eternity of life the way it was meant to be at the start. We begin with the end in mind.
And why? Simply put, if we hold this promised Day near, it brings all the struggles and challenges we face in living into the light of God’s loving plan. Therefore, in the case of the late president whose life we are remembering this week, we can think of his constant prayer after surviving the downing of his plane during WWII, “Lord, why me?” And his resulting life of public service – in which he was noted for building bridges across party lines, and for effecting healing in relationships once torn by harsh political rhetoric. We can think of his faithfulness through 73 years of marriage, reflecting into the world the faithfulness of God to us. And we can think of the hope he carried of being reunited with his daughter Robin, who died of leukemia at the age of 3.
On the day that he died, his long-time friend James A. Baker III went to visit. The president asked, “Where are we going Bake?” He replied, “We’re going to heaven.” And the president replied, “That’s where I want to go.” May this season of Advent have its intended effect of orienting all of us in just that way. As you, then, I seek to continue…
In His Service,