In the season of Advent we wait expectantly for the promised light. During the twelve days of Christmas, we celebrate the light revealed in the incarnation. This Sunday, many will celebrate Epiphany, the revelation of Christ’s light to the nations. The Christ event in the Christian tradition represents the fulfillment of God’s promises, the dawn of a new era.
In our current context, however, this neat and tidy summation of God’s activity can be explored more deeply. In spite of the fulfillment language found throughout the New Testament, we nonetheless still live in a liminal stage (what George Eldon Ladd called the “already and not yet”). Yes, the light has come in the Christ event; yet we still await the final fulfillment (Romans 8:18-25 expresses this idea well).
Although Christ has come and we have a taste of God’s promises, we still live in very uncertain times. The current financial crisis threatens the livelihood of millions (one estimate I’ve read is that by the time we emerge from the recession, nearly 50 million in the US will be living below the poverty line [see the report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, available at http://www.cbpp.org/11-24-08pov.pdf]; already the crisis has plunged more than 115 million people into poverty worldwide [see www.bread.org]). Wars, famine, and disease persist throughout the world. In this way, I find this next Sunday’s Psalm (72) to be a beautiful prayer for our times—that God would empower rulers (in our cities, states, nations, and world) to govern justly and defend the cause of the poor. May the church, empowered by the gracious Holy Spirit, lead by example!