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Already but Not Yet

Advent is a time of waiting, watching and expecting.  We are almost through the first week of Advent and it seems to have flown by!  What are the next three weeks going to feel like?  Instead of feeling like our heads are being squeezed in a vice we are to embrace the season.  Advent is an antidote to busyness, rushing and stressing.  We don’t ignite the Advent candle with a blow torch and watch it go up in a blaze.  Instead we light the Advent candle and watch it slowly burn, taking its time as it flickers a soft but steady and bright light in the darkness.  Advent helps us to reflect on the deeper meaning of Christ and His Kingdom.  In this world we live in the strange tension of the already and not yet of God’s kingdom. The theological concept of “already but not yet” holds that believers are actively taking part in the kingdom of God, although the kingdom will not reach its full expression until sometime in the future. We are “already” in the kingdom, but we do “not yet” see it in its glory.
     One of the lessons I have been reminded of this week in the readings from various sources is that Advent  is not a passive but an active waiting.  We wait as servants of God in this world, giving His love and expressing and expanding His kingdom.  I especially like the way that Shane Claiborne describes it:

“Advent, meaning “The Coming” is a time when we wait patiently.  Christianity began to celebrate it as a season during the fourth and fifth centuries.  Like Mary, we celebrate the coming of the Christ child, what God has already done.  And we wait in expectation of the full coming of God’s reign on earth and for the return of Christ, what God will yet do.  But this waiting is not a passive waiting.  It is an active waiting.  As any expectant mother knows, this waiting also involves preparation, exercise, nutrition, care, prayer, work; and birth involves pain, blood, tears, joy, release, community.  It is called labor for a reason.  Likewise, we are in a world pregnant with hope, and we live in the expectation of the coming of God’s kingdom on earth.  As we wait, we also work, cry, pray, ache; we are the midwives of another world. ” 

     “We are the midwives of another world.”  Wow, what an image.  Although Jesus is already in the world His full reign has not been given birth.  We are servants being given the great responsibility of caring, hoping, praying and helping to bring the reign of Jesus to full completion.  We care for the world by loving like Jesus loved, being present with one another and pursuing the things of the kingdom of God.  Our devotion is to the kingdom that will come on earth and that kingdom is anything but an earthly kingdom.  Hear once again Mary’s hymn:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
    for the Mighty One has done great things  for me-
    holy is his name.
 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.”
      The world in which the King of Kings ultimately reigns in is the world in which the wealthy and powerful are laid low, the poor are not marginalized, there is no foreigner or stranger, the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed and the humble are lifted high.  It is a world in which there is no sorrow or death and life is exponentially enjoyed and creation is restored to its natural beauty and function.  During this Advent we are reminded that we are midwives of another world, like John the Baptist, preparing the way for Messiah.  The Kingdom of God is here and it is coming. Already but not yet.

What do you think?  How does it make you feel?