Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Can't-Sit-Still Feeling of Expectancy

Nancy Gibbs writes an essay, "The Gospel of Glee," in the Dec. 7, 2009 issue of Time (p. 112). She writes that "a bright, earnest youth minister" had told a group of kids that the television show "Glee" is "anti-Christian" because it "portrays Christians as phonies and hypocrites."

I never feel sympathetic toward Christians who think that the media persecutes them. I wonder, instead, what it is about us Christians that conveys that impression: maybe a lot of us are behavior-centered, disapproving, and inconsistent--off-putting because of ourselves rather than because of our message.

How might Christians convey a different "signal" to the world? Several ways, I think, but one is to talk more about the Gospel--the person and work of Christ which accomplishes our salvation regardless of anything we could ever do---than about things behavior and our perceived place in the culture.

For my recent Advent study book, I found this comment from the Bible scholar William Barclay: Christians, he says, should be people “in a permanent sate of expectation.” [1] We can live in hope about the fullness of Christ’s presence. This isn't the same thing as wishing our physical lives were over! It means that, as long as we do live, we feel happy and hopeful at God’s steadfast love, and confident in the blessings God bestows for this life and the next. We could even dare admit that we are not perfect and get a very great deal wrong in our lives, but that God is steadfast.

What wonderful hope we can have! I enjoy the movie The Shawshank Redemption and its theme of hope. Of the two major characters, Andy has hope (symbolized in his love of music and chess) but his friend Red believes that hope is deceptive and prevents a person from accepting reality as it is. After the movie has passed you through several despairing circumstances, the last five or ten minutes of the movie are so uplifting: Red arrives at a point where he does feel hope. He’s so happy “I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head.”

Some of the joyful Christians whom I’ve known are very hopeful people, both in head and heart. Sure, you meet Christians who aren't very happy, who are angry or put-upon. Let's not judge them too harshly; let's pray that they feel more deeply God's hope. Joy and hope can be ours because God’s promises are absolutely certain!

I believe God works constantly to remind us of that. I also believe that God prepares us to be ready. Thus the power of Jesus’ words: we shouldn’t succumb to “the worries of this life” in case the day of the Lord should “catch you unexpectedly, like a trap” (Luke 21: 34-35). Advent can be a wonderful time to reacquaint ourselves with God's love and grace.

1. The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Luke, by William Barclay (The Westminster Press, 1975), page 261.

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