Well, 2021 is off to a fabulous start. I say that with sarcasm, of course.
There is little doubt that we are in a predicament, one that’s been building not just in 2020, nor over the past four years. It’s been unfolding for decades, if not centuries. I’m not sure it’s going to stop. As the old adage goes, “Things may get worse before they get better.”
There are a few things I believe the American (even global) church must engage in to change the trajectory that it’s on. Take them or leave them. But I am convinced they are worth taking up.
Eschatology is simply defined as the study of last things. I personally like the phrase last things rather than the oft-used end times, primarily because the latter phrase can leave solely scary images in peoples’ minds. Even Hollywood has picked up on this idea in all of their apocalyptic films. We need healthy and hopeful theology, whatever theological camp one lands in.
Even more, there are a lot of crazy things going on in our world today, right? A pandemic, racial unrest, political turmoil, regular occurrence of massive hurricanes, and more. Sounds like something out of Matthew 24:
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. (Matt 24:6-8)
What are we supposed to make of this? Is it the end times, or again, last days?
The church new year launched two days ago as we entered the season of Advent. Many may ask why the church calendar? It sounds old, boring, and out-dated at best, or created to send us to our spiritual graves at worst.
At least those would have been my thoughts some years ago. But over the past decade I have been drawn to what we call the liturgical calendar.
Welcome to the new year. Not the calendar new year, but the church’s new year that begins with the season of Advent. This is our rhythm in which we both remember the coming of God’s Messiah so long ago, but also we longingly hope for the coming of Jesus once again to make all things new. As Robert Webber reminds us in his book Ancient-Future Time:
The church has been entrusted with the meaning of all time. The world does not know the meaning of its own history, but the church does. Through the discipline of the Christian year, the church proclaims the meaning of time and of the history of the world.
The church tells time differently and with genuine purpose. We do not need to despise our cultural calendar (nor an academic or fiscal calendar). Yet, the people of God proclaim a story through a different rhythm.
With the ushering in of Advent, I want to first turn to Mary’s song—what we call “The Magnificat.”