December 16, 2011

Practical Advent

The Word became flesh in 7 BC, but Jesus’ public Advent came at the Jordan, when God declared that more than three decades of Christ’s earthly life was “well pleasing” to Him. Today, we wait for 30 days to open up a few gifts. Mary waited for nine months for the birth. God Almighty had waited a much longer time for that blessed event, and then God kept on waiting, for thirty-something more years, until he could actually send that boy somewhere. Talk about devoting oneself to the season of Advent!

Paul says, “In the fullness of time, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law.” And John’s Gospel tells us, over and over, that Jesus came “into the world”, reminding us many times that the Word had been made Flesh. But John’s Gospel also has Jesus say, many times, “The Father has sent me” – apparently, to Jerusalem, to Capernaum, to some festivals, even to his to his last meal. In other words, I believe, we should properly notice that God “sent his son into the world” many times over.

Obviously, John’s Gospel is very spiritual, but it’s also deeply geographic (if you pay close attention). Likewise, the irony John plays on for 21 chapters is that Jesus’ hearers don’t recognize the spiritual impact of his words, but we can. Yet today, too often, *we* overlook the more practical side. When Jesus stands at the Temple and says, “God sent me”, the Jerusalemite’s natural response should be, “Oh, so that’s why we have to put up with your crazy talk here, today? Because God sent you?” In such cases the double meaning was absolutely intended, and probably in both directions.

Likewise, I suspect Paul’s summary to the Galatians has a double meaning that we often skim past way too quickly. Yes, of course, Jesus was ‘heaven come down’, but just as importantly, if not more so, Jesus was ‘heaven sent round’, and few could know this any better than Paul. At that writing, the apostle himself hailed from Taurus, from Jerusalem, from Damascus, from Arabia, and from Antioch. Paul had a deep appreciation of the eminent practicality of that word, sent.

Each December we're challenged to celebrate the Lord’s Manger-Advent with tremendous fanfare, and rightly so, because something mystical started to happen on Earth that day. But Jesus’ Jordan-Advent is something I wish we could celebrate with equal fanfare, if not even more. On that day, after more than three decades in Nazareth, Jesus’ mystical mission, bringing Light to the World, jumped up several big notches on the ‘practical’ scale.

In the Fullness of time, God sent his Nazarene into the world.


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