The Advent Trajectory

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In the very early church, at least as far as we know according to New Testament literature, what characterized the Christian faith was an intense expectation. And this expectation was not merely about one’s personal salvation, one’s own well-being and dignity. This expectation was about a radical reordering of society; it was a cry for justice in the face of the oppressive abuse of power by occupying forces, and a critique of the Jewish hierarchy, both civil and religious, complicit with the Roman occupation. The abuse of power and the injustice it engenders is a principal theme in the biblical history of Israel. God’s promise to God’s people from the age of the patriarchs was that if they worshiped the one true God, then justice would flourish among them, justice being principally shared abundance and mutual respect and equal status; and yet their biblical history is a story of a suffering people under the weight of corrupted power, abject injustice. So what came to characterize Judaism, and early Christianity is a reliance on a future hope, an imminent expectation of God coming through on God’s promise… How long, O Lord; how long?

Sadly over the centuries, corrupted power and its fallout have persisted and this future hope has been projected by the church into the proverbial hereafter, the life to come. We speak most often of salvation as an assurance of citizenship in heaven after death, where the streets are paved with gold, “where there is neither sorrow nor sighing.” But this is not the promise nor the theology of the early church.

Early New Testament Literature was written in common Greek, the language of the academy, and the word for Advent (the coming) of Christ is in the Aorist tense, which can be either present or future, or both. So recognizing that God’s time is not linear like our own construct of time; that God’s time is outside of past, present, and future… this coming according to the scribes of scripture is both present and future. So for us practicing Christians, we are participating in a reality outside of the constrictions of time… God’s coming is both now and in the future. Love is the trajectory. Love is outward and visible evidence of God’s coming… and love is real in the present, an artifact of God’s promised coming, but here and now. Love is the kept promise.

We are to keep awake to the trajectory of Love, the trajectory of the process of God’s coming. Our Baptismal vocation is that we participate, heart, soul, mind, and body in that process. In truth, we are always in Advent, the peculiar season in the liturgy of the church notwithstanding. In truth we are called into the midst of God’s gracious reign coming into being, now and not yet, an ambiguity to us, but I think not to God… We bear God’s coming that is rife with the infinite possibilities of Love… Love that will set all manner of thing right and good and just… even now.

 

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