My article for the November Crossways newsletter for St Paul’s Church Spennymoor and Whitworth Church.
What a mess!
Recent events have reminded us that we live in a messed up world. The news always seems to be bad news, whether it comes from Ukraine, from Westminster, or even from Spennymoor. At times, the mess in the world is caused by natural disasters. But often it’s a case of messed-up people making a mess of other people’s lives, and of their own lives too.
How should we respond?
In August I wrote about tragedy, and I suggested that we shouldn’t try to find a neat and tidy explanation for all the bad things that happen in the world. We can’t just say that everything happens for a reason. Instead, I said we should cling to the fact that God can bring good things out of evil, something that we see most clearly in Jesus’ death on the cross. This means that we need to look to the future.
Looking to the future is what we are encouraged to do at this time of the church year.
The church year begins with the season of Advent, which starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas (27 November this year). This is a time when we prepare for Christmas, which is the celebration of the advent (arrival) of Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem. But it is also a time when we prepare for Jesus’ second advent. As we say in the Nicene Creed, ‘He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.’
The closing weeks of the church year also direct us to the future.
On All Saints’ Sunday (30 October) we celebrated those people whose lives have given us a glimpse of God’s glory on display in the world. This makes us long for the day when ‘the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea’ (Habakkuk 2:14).
Remembrance Sunday reminds us that God ‘makes wars cease to the ends of the earth’, and this makes us cry out for the day when God says to the warring nations of the earth, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:9-10).
On the the last Sunday of the Church year (20 November) we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, as we look forward to the day when all things will be brought together under the universal lordship of Jesus Christ.
During Advent, then, and in the weeks leading up to Advent, we are encouraged to look ahead to the future - to that day when Jesus returns to the earth to bring in God’s eternal kingdom.
Looking to the future isn’t easy! It’s much easier to dwell on the ‘good old days’. And it isn’t easy to look to Jesus either: too often we expect politicians, judges and generals to put everything right. The key to this is faith: ‘we live by faith, not by sight’ (2 Corinthians 5:7).
We live in a messed up world. It’s right to feel the pain of that. But faith is about setting our hope on the promises God has revealed to us in the Bible. And faith leads us to pray: ‘your kingdom come’.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.