This year, I’m dreaming of an apocalyptic Advent. I need fresh imagination for what God is doing in the waiting and hoping everyone keeps talking about, and I think it’s apocalyptic.
That’s what Advent is, after all – the church’s choice to participate in the arrival, and then proleptic unfolding, of that Great Cataclysm: the Incarnation of the Son of God. In that Great Cataclysm, the Son unveiled God and made him known – at once answering, disrupting, and transforming the aching hope for deliverance. Yes, apocalyptic.
Advent doesn’t really do much unless it’s apocalyptic. If Advent isn’t apocalyptic, then nothing ever changes. Advent is like the uncle who circles around once a year and stumbles into our living room. The routine feels a bit different from normal, but mostly predictable. It’s easy to put things back together like they were before, after he leaves.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear…and then does what, exactly?
What kind of arrival are we waiting for?
We need an Apocalyptic Advent because the content of our hope is renewal, and genuine renewal in Christ comes on the other side of everything being shaken loose and laid bare. We need a revelation that unveils the arrival of something new while also unveiling everything that has been concealed on the ground and in our lives.
This means that, in an apocalyptic Advent, we are waiting and watching for the end of the world. Our hope is grounded in the promise that the End is actually a Beginning that makes room for genuine renewal.Our hope is grounded in the promise that the End is actually a Beginning. Click To Tweet
This is why the church has historically reserved a few readings from Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, the “Little Apocalypse,” during the Advent season (see Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21). The Little Apocalypse is the bit toward the end of Jesus’ ministry where he sounds like one of those crazy street preachers announcing God’s judgment and the end of the world.
The real punch to Jesus’ announcement is that God’s arrival will mean the destruction of the temple. The central sacred space around which all of life found meaning and orientation – the locus of God’s very presence – Jesus said is coming to an end. It’s all over.
For some first century Jews and followers of Jesus (but not all), nothing could be worse. If the Temple is destroyed, then that means the practices, habits, and patterns associated with the Temple (i.e. sacrifices) also must come to an end. And if that system comes to an end, then the centers of power and authority – the status quo from which the religious leadership and aristocracy most benefited – crumble too. This was exactly the opposite of what God’s restoration ought to look like.
The Advent Jesus announced was, in a manner of speaking, “earth shattering,” which doesn’t seem like the right context for renewal, but it actually is. Jesus told his disciples that, when everything hits the fan, most people would, to put it mildly, freak out. “But not so with you,” Jesus says to his disciples. “Instead, keep your head up and pay attention because this is actually your redemption crashing into the world.
God’s Advent in Christ brings the old ways of the world and of our status quo to an end, so that something radically different and new will take its place. We need Advent to be apocalyptic because we’re not prone, nor are we really able, to let things come crashing down with a glorious and terrifying thud. But God’s self-revelation always lays us bare (as the author of Hebrews says) in the ways we need most.
In one sense, the End has already come. Everything has changed. The heavens ripped open and God unveiled himself in Christ, who shines his light and exposes the darkness.In one sense, the End has already come. Everything has changed. Click To Tweet
In another sense, however, the End is still unfolding, and we are waiting still. We are waiting and watching for how God’s arrival brings disruption and (a kind of) destruction to the structures and patterns that keep us from reordering ourselves around God’s kingdom in Christ.
In an apocalyptic Advent, waiting means there are some things we just don’t need to rebuild. So let’s put down those bricks and mortar and declare with hope, “The End has come and it has become our Beginning!”
Our hope is not just that things will be different. Our hope is that God’s kingdom is budding forth and sprouting amidst the destruction and rubble. This hope fixes our attention toward the end of things, even toward the end of our status quo, rather than their defense and preservation.
We do this because we trust that, when Jesus arrives, he disrupts, and he disrupts in order to transform.When Jesus arrives, he disrupts, and he disrupts in order to transform. Click To Tweet
An apocalyptic Advent draws our attention to the rumble beneath our feet – to the shaking loose. When we feel the rumble, we don’t have to freak out. This is where the good stuff is – this is where the renewal comes.
Missio Alliance Comment Policy
The Missio Alliance Writing Collectives exist as a ministry of writing to resource theological practitioners for mission. From our Leading Voices to our regular Writing Team and those invited to publish with us as Community Voices, we are creating a space for thoughtful engagement of critical issues and questions facing the North American Church in God’s mission. This sort of thoughtful engagement is something that we seek to engender not only in our publishing, but in conversations that unfold as a result in the comment section of our articles.
Unfortunately, because of the relational distance introduced by online communication, “thoughtful engagement” and “comment sections” seldom go hand in hand. At the same time, censorship of comments by those who disagree with points made by authors, whose anger or limited perspective taints their words, or who simply feel the need to express their own opinion on a topic without any meaningful engagement with the article or comment in question can mask an important window into the true state of Christian discourse. As such, Missio Alliance sets forth the following suggestions for those who wish to engage in conversation around our writing:
1. Seek to understand the author’s intent.
If you disagree with something the an author said, consider framing your response as, “I hear you as saying _________. Am I understanding you correctly? If so, here’s why I disagree. _____________.
2. Seek to make your own voice heard.
We deeply desire and value the voice and perspective of our readers. However you may react to an article we publish or a fellow commenter, we encourage you to set forth that reaction is the most constructive way possible. Use your voice and perspective to move conversation forward rather than shut it down.
3. Share your story.
One of our favorite tenants is that “an enemy is someone whose story we haven’t heard.” Very often disagreements and rants are the result of people talking past rather than to one another. Everyone’s perspective is intimately bound up with their own stories – their contexts and experiences. We encourage you to couch your comments in whatever aspect of your own story might help others understand where you are coming from.
In view of those suggestions for shaping conversation on our site and in an effort to curate a hospitable space of open conversation, Missio Alliance may delete comments and/or ban users who show no regard for constructive engagement, especially those whose comments are easily construed as trolling, threatening, or abusive.