It’s Wednesday night. I’ll be teaching this evening, and then again tomorrow for several sessions. Then there’s graduation on Friday night, where I’ll be privileged to share for a few minutes before the students celebrate the completion of their time here at Tauernhoff.
It’s always around this point in my “two weeks and change” trip to Europe that I begin to long for home. This trip will be extended for a few wonderful days of fun with my daughter who teaches in Germany, as she visits me here for the weekend and we frolick in the snow with friends for two days before I head west to Zurich, and then much further west to Seattle. Though it will be a delightful weekend, the anticipation of being with my wife has begun to grow and will continue to grow over the next hours and days until we see each other at the airport on Tuesday.
Anticipation. Though waiting has fallen on hard times in our instant society, anticipation is still alive and well. Some of these students had been anticipating their time in Austria for months before ever boarding a plane. Couples set wedding dates, and as soon as there’s a date, there’s anticipation. The groom on the day of the wedding, who’s not seen his bride? Anticipation. Sexual intimacy, arousal, foreplay – anticipation is wrapped in all of this. Children of course, embody anticipation on Christmas eve as their excitement for the coming morning overflows.
I love the notion of living fully in the present moment as Jesus invites when he tells us not to worry about tomorrow, or clothes, or food, or anything else. But Jesus also challenges us to live with a keen awareness of, and even longing for, the better world that is to come when the reign of Christ is fully realized. It’s as if God has painted a picture for us of a world pregnant with hope, and has told us that the child to be born will be bring “peace on earth, goodwill to all people” and o so much more, because this child will be the king that will finally get it right, and the entire cosmos will be the happy beneficiaries.
Anticipation is wrapped in advent; as we lean into our longings:
For a just world – because we know that the human trafficking that enslaves so many will end, even as we sing the truth that “in His name all oppression shall cease”.
For the end of war, because there is terror on every side and we know it. Every image from Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Egypt, should create an aching, longing sense of anticipation for the “peace on earth” that is the promise of Messiah’s reign.
For peace, which is more than just the end of war because it means that “all’s well” – internally, horizontally in relationships with each other, and vertically in our relationship with our creator. Of course, all’s not well at the moment, but we live with anticipation, and this is good.
There’s an irony to our anticipation of Jesus’ 2nd coming. Because his 1st coming made possible the mysterious reality of His life filling and empowering each of us right here and now, this King’s reign can be seen among us, in us, and through us, right now, as we become people of hope overflowing with Christ’s life and character! Without a sense of anticipation regarding Christ’s full reign though, we will sink into an overwhelming sense of discouragement regarding present realities. When that happens, I disengage and retreat into either cynicism or despair, and my calling and purpose are drowned in the ocean of this world’s suffering.
Live with the confident expectation of Christ’s full reign that will come eventually though, and I’m fortified, able to live with joy today, right in the midst of suffering, because of one simple thing: anticipation of a better future for us all.
It anticipation that enabled Dietrich Bonhoeffer to serve his fellow prisoners, and even his guards, with joy and charity until he was executed by hanging. The same is true for Sophie Scholl. I’m reminded of these German martyrs annually, and this year, reading some of their work, I’m reminded of the darkness that was their reality – a blackness of death, deceit, destruction, that hung like a cloud over Germany. Who could live as light in such times? People who have the faith to embody “anticipation” of Christ’s healing reign.
Our time and place may not appear as dark, though looks can be deceiving. No matter the level of darkness though, what’s needed most in dark places is a light. So along comes Jesus, the light of the world, and he says, “YOU are the light of the world, so let’s get on with it” (my paraphrase of this). How? By living with confidence that in the winter of our lives, or the lives of our marriages, or countries, or jobs, or even the winter of our planet, there’s a spring that’s yet to come, filled with all that our heart longs for. Believe that, and you’ll be planting bulbs in the snow, literally and metaphorically, because you anticipate better days. Joy to the World, the Lord WILL Come. I can hardly wait!!