Expected but Unexpected
I remember hearing a sermon a few years ago (ok more than a few) in which the preacher wanted the congregation to think about Christmas in a new way by imagining that the birth of Christ was like the birth of any child—expected but unexpected.
Let me explain.
The preacher wondered what would happen if we decided to move the Christmas holiday away from December 25th and proclaim that Christmas would officially arrive “after Halloween when the first snow came.”
Now obviously this preacher was from up north somewhere and not from someplace like Florida or South Georgia where it snows so infrequently that Christmas might come only once every few years like the Olympics or Leap Year! But let’s play along with the premise for a second.
Just think about how different things would be.
Suddenly kids would watch the news…or at least the weather report…every evening.
Each morning they would get out of bed and head to the window to look. Kids would share rumors of where snow had fallen. “I heard it snowed in Minnesota last night.” “Man, those kids in the Rocky Mountains sure are lucky” would be common phrases.
I am not sure what stores would do. Start advertising with the first cold snap. Winter is Coming would not just be a Game of Thrones reference but an advertising mantra.
I doubt lights would go up any sooner. I don’t think some folks ever take them down!
And Hallmark Christmas movies would also continue as normal. They began in my house back in July!
I do wonder if it might be more exciting when the snow arrived. Folks going outside to feel the first few flakes land on their nose and eyelashes and proclaim to everyone they meet that it is here at last! Merry Christmas!!!
In a sense it would be like the first Christmas or the birth of my own children. Anyone who has waited for a baby to come can tell you that children don’t come on schedule. You can’t really put that trip to the hospital on your calendar. You just do all you can to be ready and then you wait for labor to begin. It must have been that way for Joseph and Mary. It was certainly that way for Laura and me. We planned and prepared, but the girls came when they and God were ready. With Brittany I was so frustrated at her not coming I didn’t even believe Laura when she said she was in labor. And Sydney came so fast I almost missed her delivery altogether.
Last Sunday I preached on part of the Apocalyptic texts we find in scripture. I was honest in the fact that these texts make most mainline protestants like me nervous. Its not so much because of the words of the texts but because of how people have interpreted them and twisted them, often to fit their own agendas.
Instead, as we discovered, when it is translated from the Biblical Greek, the word apocalypse simply means unveiling or revealing. If that is the case, I am beginning to believe that all of Jesus’s teachings are apocalyptic. Because if I understand the texts, Jesus is always pointing us to God’s promised day or, as scripture calls it, the Kingdom of God.
Jesus points us to glimpses of the kingdom on earth even as it is in heaven. The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, Jesus’s interactions with the Samaritan woman, and so many of Jesus’s teachings and interactions reveal glimpses of how we can truly live in the kingdom of God in the now. We just need to be open to see it and proclaim it when we see it. Like waking up looking for the first snow and proclaiming, “Look, it is here! Merry Christmas! Christ has come!”
So, I am going to invite you to become an apocalyptic Christian. Not those who live in fear of some terror to come, but as those who look for the glimpses of the kingdom of God and as those who seek to bring the kingdom of God to others.
To anticipate each day like a child who is looking for the first flurries to proclaim, “It is here! Look everyone it is finally here.”
Of course, we can choose to say that the coming of the Promised Day is something for the future and live as the world would tell us to, believing in the narrative of scarcity that tells us self-centeredness is not only appropriate but necessary. But that is not our calling—we are called remember that we are a people of faith who stand on the promises of a savior who came unexpectedly, lived an unexpected life, unexpectedly chose to die for humanity, and then most unexpectedly of all conquered death and rose from the grave. And now that Savior calls us to live an unexpected life, as people expecting the Kingdom of God—not just in the future but every day of our life.