By Keith Boyette
December 23, 2021
O to live with the perspective of eternity – to be like God who is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end, the first and the last – to have God’s vision. God has planted eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11), but we are time-bound creatures nonetheless. We have a past, a present, and a future. How we understand our place in that past, present, and future makes a huge difference in the way we live our lives.
Additionally, we live in what some have called the “already-not yet time.” We live in the season between the first coming of Christ and his second coming. The kingdom of God is present and yet it contends with the kingdoms of this world. We are seemingly trapped in the middle. Immersed in a world that operates too often according to values opposed to the values of God’s kingdom, we struggle with divided allegiances. Some are even expert in compartmentalizing their lives into the secular and spiritual with each carefully walled off from the other lest they contaminate one another. In Romans 7, Paul was acutely aware of this war waged within us.
We experience this tension between past, present, and future in this season of the church year. Advent is a season of waiting and preparation. We press into prophecies delivered by individuals in the centuries before Christ, often in the midst of exile, bewilderment about what God is doing, and even hopelessness. In looking back to words they spoke and the God they knew, we receive strength. God’s eternal purposes are revealed to us – still relevant to us more than two thousand years later.
Yet we cannot help ourselves. We find it difficult to stay in the moment. In the midst of Advent, many of us want to rush ahead to Christmas – God’s gift of a Savior in a baby born in Bethlehem. We press into the ultimate victory this baby has purchased for us when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ (Revelation 11:15). Living in the present while not being held captive to the past or pressing ahead to the future is difficult. We need the lessons of the past just as much as we need to be filled with expectation about the future, but now is the moment in which we live. These are the days God has entrusted to us. This is our time.
The Old Testament prophets knew this tension well. The prophet Micah wonderfully captures the narrative in Micah 5:2-5a. There is One whose “origins are from the distant past” yet a woman “labors to give birth” and the people seemingly are “abandoned to their enemies” during a time of waiting. But when this One comes, people “will return from exile to their own land,” He will “lead His flock with the Lord’s strength,” and the people will live undisturbed. How inviting that promise must have been to those who first heard it. They knew God’s faithfulness down through the centuries. They longed for the fulfillment of the promise, but they had to live in the present moment. However, knowing the past and confident in the future, they could make the most of their moment in time.
The apostle Paul likewise knew the importance of living in the moment. In Titus 2:11-15, Paul celebrates that the “grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people” – the fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy. As recipients of that grace, we are to “turn from godless living and sinful pleasures.” Though we continue to reside in this “evil world,” we are to live “with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God.” We have a mission in this present moment – God is counting on you and me – our witness continues in this already, not yet season. Yes, we are to “look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus, will be revealed.” But that future hope must not distract us from our present mission. Rather, in this moment, we must live into the present reality that Jesus has freed us from every kind of sin, cleansed us, and made us His very own people, “totally committed to doing good deeds.” We are to be about the Lord’s calling in this moment as a response to the great and wondrous things God has done and will do.
In this moment, we have One who empowers us, guides us, and is our constant companion in the journey – Jesus the Christ. As Micah declares, “He shall be [our] peace (Micah 5:5a ESV).” Peace is not something to be achieved. Peace is realized in the person of Jesus Christ and this peace is ours here and now in this very moment.
Maybe you are like me. I want to rush ahead to realize the complete fulfilment of the promises of God. I don’t want to tarry in this already, not yet season. But the ways of God are so much better than my ways. The thoughts of God are so much higher than my thoughts.
On this Christmas Eve, as we prepare to celebrate the first coming of Jesus and we press into the expectation of His second coming, may we treasure the moment with which
God has blessed us. May we draw close to Jesus, our peace, with the confident assurance that He is God with us in this moment.
From all of us at the Wesleyan Covenant Association, may you know the fullness of the joy, peace and life of this Christmas as we anticipate what our God will do in the coming year! May you, your family, and your church experience all the blessings God has prepared for you.
The Rev. Keith Boyette is president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and chair of the Transitional Leadership Council of the Global Methodist Church (in formation). He is an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.
East Ohio WCA is not affiliated with the East Ohio UNITED METHODIST CHURCH.
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