A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery
Thy Kingdom Come!
December 5, 2013
The word “Advent” means literally “coming” or “arrival.” For Christians, “Advent” refers to the coming of Jesus into the world as God’s Messiah. At Christmas, he slips into human history almost imperceptibly – just another unfortunate child of an unwed mother born in merciful obscurity. Heaven sings, but the world barely breaks a yawn to greet this child of poverty. We laud the angels and shepherds and magi who see more than meets the eye, and well we should; but the most notable thing about Jesus’ birth is how little note the world takes of his arrival.
Later Jesus will tell his disciples, “The arrival of the Son of Man is not something you go out to see. He simply comes.” (Luke 17:24, The Message
) This is exactly what happens at his first coming, and according to Luke 17, it will also mark his return.
is a four-week season in which we pay special attention to preparing for Messiah’s return by remembering his first arrival. According to the New Testament, the same Jesus who came two thousand years ago to announce God’s coming reign will come again to establish it in fullness. Make no mistake – the kingdom of God heralded by his birth is the same kingdom as the one revealed at his return:
- Its chief end is God’s transcendent glory. “Glory to God in the highest!” sing the angels at Bethlehem, and his return is always first and foremost about declaring God’s majestic glory. “Holy! Holy! Holy!” sing the earth’s throngs throughout the book of Revelation.
- On earth as in heaven – “peace on earth,” Bethlehem’s angels chant, then Jesus teaches his followers to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Just as with his coming to Bethlehem, our Lord’s return is all about bringing earth in line with heaven, or more precisely, bringing heaven to earth.
Alas, in spite of Christmas, our world continues to fall far short of such righteous peace. So we are tempted to hope that at his second Advent the Messiah will adopt a different plan that forcibly vanquishes all the powers of darkness in one fell swoop. Yet why would we expect the coming in fullness of God’s kingdom to hinge on such a spectacular intervention when we know for a fact that this same kingdom was first introduced by a Messianic Advent notable chiefly for its worldly insignificance and obscurity? Did he not tell us, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed” (Luke 17:20)? So what do we make of all the cataclysmic end-time events set forth in apocalyptic literature?
Whatever the nature of his return, we wait for his coming not in passive expectation of being rescued by heavenly invasion, but with patient resolve to work diligently and tirelessly to prepare for his coming by doing all in our power to welcome his rule among us today. For Advent people, peace on earth is not some vague distant hope but the focused goal toward which we work day in and day out.
From his first coming, we know that this Messiah is one who comes quietly. He shouts or forces no one into submission. What his second coming will look like we cannot say. But this much we know: it will be the same Messiah and the same Kingdom that were revealed to us through Jesus of Nazareth two thousand years ago.
Yours in Advent hope,
Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge,
Click here for the directory of archived letters.