Talking Point – December 2021

Come Lord Jesus

AT THE END of November, the Christian Church begins the season of Advent. For too many of us, Advent is no longer a season in its own right, but simply a time of preparation for Christmas. Might we spend a little time this year focusing on the true meaning of Advent?
The Bible ends in the book of Revelation with these words, “Surely I am coming soon. Amen, Come Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20). Those words may be familiar, or they may not be. In Advent, we pray that Jesus will come again as God has promised – that he will come soon and save us from ourselves. But what do we really want? In his book By Way of the Heart, Canon Mark Oakley reminds us of the following hypothetical situation, first described by Father Gerry Hughes: Imagine that one day, Jesus did come to our house. He rings our doorbell, and we are delighted to see him, so we let him in for refreshments and dinner. We ring our friends to tell them the amazing news. You tell your vicar and bishop, and they invite him to address the national church assembly (insert your own people – I am an Anglican!). Jesus asks to stay with you. Of course, you are thrilled – at least for the first day or two. But then he starts bringing people back with him – they look dubious and tatty, the sort of people your neighbourhood doesn’t approve of. He is always being criticised for being in the wrong company and you start to see why. He lets these people stay a while, gives them things and listens to them endlessly, laughs with them, and doesn’t seem to see in them what you do. Soon your neighbours are complaining – house prices begin to fall. They don’t want prostitutes, dodgy-looking people, and all those foreigners coming to see this friend of yours. And then the press turns up, because the things he is saying upset the Church, the Government, the lawyers, the academics, in fact everyone. So, after some thought, you realise you have a nice cupboard under your stairs – if you do it up a bit (carpet, paint), Jesus can go in there. That would stop him using the whole house. You can keep it clean, and ensure fresh flowers are left outside the cupboard door every day. You convince yourself that Jesus will be happy in there, and so will you. But how long will Jesus stay in there before his love forces itself out again?
We dare to pray that Jesus will come again – to our lives, to you and to me. Is that what we really want? If so, then be ready for John the Baptist’s warning, for this Jesus was not one for aesthetics. He embraced untidy life – not whitewashed tombs. He wants relationships, justice and compassion to be more beautiful than anything that points to him. So, we had better sweep our stable and work out what must change in us.
Come, Lord Jesus!
Mike Smith, Rector, Caversham Thameside and Mapledurham