|Advent Joy and the City of God|
|Written by Toby Sumpter|
|Monday, 12 December 2011 15:00|
Israel is a city in ruins waiting redemption. Then in the darkness, a voice calls out from a nearby mountainside. Wake up! Get dressed! Get ready! Isaiah 52 says that it will be like the Exodus. God will vindicate His name, and bare His arm for all the nations to see. When God restores Israel, He will go before them and behind them. But at the center of the chapter is the announcement itself. Isaiah says that the announcement is beautiful, lovely. And the response of the watchmen at the broken gates of the city is joy and dancing and singing together. Your God reigns, and your God is coming!
Isaiah doesn’t show us the full restoration of the city; he primarily shows us the announcement that the city will be restored. And this announcement is beautiful and erupts in joyful singing.
Centuries later, John came baptizing, and he bore witness to Jesus who was the Coming One, coming looking for fruit, looking for a city full of people preparing for Him. John points to Him and many begin to follow Him. John says that Jesus is the bridegroom, and you can tell because the bride is with Him. John identifies himself as the best man. He is the friend of the groom and rejoices in the wedding.
But one of the most startling things in the gospel accounts is that this wedding, this marriage, seems short lived. What would you make of a romance like this, where the man comes courting, comes wooing a bride, and then tells her he must go away for a while? Jesus says He must go, but it will be better this way. He goes to prepare a place. And meanwhile, He promises to come and be present with His people through the Holy Spirit. By the Holy Spirit, the people of God, the bride of Jesus will be led into all truth, will be helped and comforted. In short, while Jesus goes to prepare a place for His bride, His bride remains in the ruins of the world to prepare a place for Him.
In other words, Jesus comes in His first advent to announce that He is coming. His first advent is efficacious, powerful, and authoritative. By His death and resurrection and the gift of His Spirit, He secures forever His final advent. His first advent is the announcement that God is King. Your God reigns!
In Philippians, Paul writes to remind the believers of their place in this story. They are citizens of heaven, though the city around them may resemble a Roman colony. They are colonists of another empire who are awaiting the arrival of their King who will transform their lowly bodies into glorious bodies (like His) and subdue all things under His rule. In other words, Paul reminds the Philippians of the announcement: Your God reigns and He is coming! And because of this, because Paul and the Philippians have heard this announcement, they are to rejoice. And again, Paul says, I say rejoice!
Paul says that we are the watchmen in the ruins of this city called the world. But we have heard the announcement that our God is King and that our King is coming. And this must result in joy and singing. And our rejoicing must spill out in joyful preparation. The King is coming! Wake up! Get your beautiful clothes on! Get the city ready!
This is what Advent means. Advent is an annual reminder that our mission is to get this whole world ready for when Jesus arrives forever. Advent is an annual reminder that we are getting this world ready for the Wedding of the Ages, for when the New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband. Evangelism means calling the world to wake up and get dressed and to join us as we seek to deck this world in the most glorious way possible for the Reception of her King. Whether Christ returns in a few years or a few hundred thousand years, we have our marching orders and we still have plenty of work to do.
So as you prepare for Christmas, think of it as getting ready for the arrival of our King. Decorate, give gifts, be generous, be merciful, and do it all in obedience to the Great Commission. Get the world ready for the King. Because He comes, He surely comes. Rejoice.