Saturday, December 25, 2010

Already and Not Yet

It has been quite a while since my last post. I am not sure whether it has been due to writer’s block, a temporary loss of interest or inspiration, or a spate of laziness or lethargy. I figured I would try to break the inertia at Christmas by doing what I did last year, and post an adaptation of my annual Christmas letter. I try to write one each year with the dual purpose of recounting family news from the previous year and even coming up with something inspirational in keeping with the holiday.

I also suffer from writer’s block occasionally when trying to draft the Christmas letter.  This puts me into a panic when Christmas is less than two weeks away and the muses still have not shown up. Part of my writer’s block this year may have been due to a fear of boring the reader by repetition. It does indeed seem that each year is a mixed bag of good news and bad news, joys and sorrows, births and deaths. 2010 was no exception.

The ups and downs of life notwithstanding, what seems to stand out the most is the calm and contentedness of daily life. I am livnig comfortably with a steady job, something that ten  percent or more of our population cannot say in this current economy.  Two of my three children are grown and out of the house, and I have two beautiful grandchildren.  An adult autistic son is living in a group home, and though I occasoinally think of what might have been were it not for his condition, and I still pray for a miraculous healing, I am also aware that God may glorify himself through him in other ways short of healing him.  The same is true for our fifteen year old daughter who still lives with us.  Autism notwithstanding, she is rather happy and contented, which usually means that my wife and I are happy and contented too! With the new found calm and relative predictability of our home, we have much more time to enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes we act like newlyweds! Desipite occasional trials ranging from minor annoyance to more substanial adversity, I sometimes feel like I have a little piece of heaven on earth.

This is indeed a very contented stage of life, perhaps typical of a fifty-something. Life is good. I think of Paul’s words to the Philippians:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Philippians 4:11-12)

I can relate to Paul, not because I can hold a candle to the level of hardship and adversity that he went through, but because there is indeed an underlying contentment even when things are not going well. This is what I was thinking of as Christmas approached this year and I was trying to figure out what to write.

At Christmas we celebrate the arrival of the Kingdom of God in the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his well known prophecy, Isaiah announced in advance that God’s kingdom would arrive in just this way:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
Of course, with the birth of Jesus,, His Kingdom had only arrived in part. He still had to announce the Gospel of the Kingdom and to complete his mission of dying on the cross for our sins and rising from the dead, but even with all this accomplished, theologians tell us that the Kingdom of God is “already here, but not yet”. What is that all about? Talk about a contradiction in terms!

The Scriptures make many references to the Kingdom of God having arrived in part, giving us a foretaste of things to come. The Apostle Paul teaches us that God has “set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”  (2 Corinthians 1:22)

Elsewhere, the Apostle John reassures us::
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (I_John 3:2)

These are all indications that we have a taste of the kingdom of God, but the thing that we long for and know will eventually come is not yet here. Through faith in the Lord and what He has done for us, we can trust that our sins are forgiven. We even see the activity of God’s Spirit in our lives, so we can say with the Psalmist,

 Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)
And the Lord gives us blessings in abundance, particularly the love we experience among our family, friends and neighbors. So the Kingdom of God is here… and yet… there is much in this world indicating that it is not here yet. Amidst the joy and blessing, we also see pain, sickness and death. There remains much sadness and malice in this world. And if we are honest with ourselves, we realize that there is some malice in our own hearts too.

At Christmas we celebrate the arrival of God’s Kingdom in the birth of the baby Jesus. We remember our blessings and we wait with hope for the day His Kingdom will arrive in all its fullness. As the Apostle John said in Revelation:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[a] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away  (Revelation_21:13)

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”  Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20)

Here's to a blessed Christmas season and a joyful 2011, and may the Kingdom of God reign in our hearts!


Rick Broomell said...

Hi Leo. Enjoyed your post. Encouraging. I like the "already and not yet" mindset. There is tension but without stress. Don't know if you saw this, but it's a good explanation of where Christians find themselves.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


JD Curtis said...

Just beautiful MDC.