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Advent 5: Now and Not Yet

The kingdom of God is both now and not yet. –Matthew George Easton

As we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth,  as we read the stories and prophecies of the longing of the Israelites for the Messiah, it remains evident that many of the prophecies and promises have not been visibly fulfilled. Nations do not appear to be in any hurry to beat their swords into pruning hooks and stop learning war. Children cannot safely play in the places that were once full of fear. We are not free from idolatry—from the seduction and false security of money and power and prestige. Sometimes I find this disheartening.

The book of Acts, the Revelation of John, the Epistles, are full of the same waiting and longing for the Kingdom that appeared in the words of the Old Testament prophets. Paul writes in Romans 8, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly…. But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” I strive for patience and remind myself that the hope and the waiting are not mine alone.

I try to remember, also, that we are called not only to wait for the Kingdom but to look for the places in which it is already present. Jesus told his disciples, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17: 20-21) We simply need to open ourselves to it, to clear away the fear and self-will that hide it from our sight and keep us from embodying it in the world. Even in our sins and our sorrows, Christ is within us, Christ is with us. Because of this our pain can open into compassion instead of bitterness, our faults can open into repentance rather than despair, and even in the midst of our distress we may be visited with holy joy. I try to remember this, to live in the life and strength of the Kingdom that is now as I work toward the Kingdom that is not yet.

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