Revelation 20:1-4, 11--21:2
Psalm 84: 3, 4, 5-6, 8
I’m not too fond of talk of the 2nd coming. It invokes vivid images of hell, fire and brimstone, of God as an unforgiving judge who will always find fault—no matter how hard I tried. The images come unbidden; they are just immediately there when I encounter scriptures such as today’s scriptures—particularly that drawn from Revelations. These are the images formed in my childhood and as an adult I know better; or do I? Intellectually, I immediately interrupt these images with adult knowledge. But, the earlier message is written in the inner most recesses of my spirit—as if put there in indelible ink.
And, yet…today…as I grappled with these scriptures—and those deeply embedded images, I heard myself being called to another childhood memory, a moment of wonder and delight. It was as if the Spirit invited me to re-make my memories to understand. Let me share…
Do you remember being a child and waiting for Santa to come? Were you excited? For me—and my son after me--the anticipation was absolutely palpable. And, Christmas Eve was the longest night of the year! Who could sleep? The excitement electrified one’s body and spirit.
Do you remember the utter magic of this mysterious creature that came in the middle of the night, bearing gifts and—in my case—loving notes thanking me for the cookies and milk? Yes, he brought PRESENTS, but was it the presents that created this most magical moment? I don’t think so. For me, it was the magic—and the mysterious love this jolly old fellow bestowed on an ordinary girl like me. It was utterly amazing and so-o-o wonderful. Remember?
Can you hear the phrases of the song that every child came to know by heart, phrases like…“You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not shout, I’m telling you why—Santa Claus is coming to town!” and, “He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” If you were raised in the U.S., I bet you can hear the tune even as you read the words.
But, look at the words…the implied judgment. Do you remember being afraid? I don’t. Yet, like all children I knew I wasn’t perfect. I knew I made mistakes or didn’t quite measure up; and, yet, I also knew that Santa would come to me. In my heart, I knew that Santa—for some mysterious reason—loved me, and that he would be fair to me. So, even if I didn’t always do as I ought, I didn’t expect coal in my stocking. I knew that on Christmas morning I would find proof of that love. Do you remember? I do and I can feel the joy and love of that moment as vividly as if it were yesterday—and, getting ready, the anticipation of it was almost as good.
So-o, what does this have to do with today’s scriptures? I know—despite strong childhood memories to the contrary--that Jesus was not telling his followers to be afraid, to worry about their every move, to tremble in their boots as they prepared to meet God. Jesus is inviting them and us to join in the wondrous mystery of God’s love, to prepare their hearts for a world of joy, peace, and love, to join in a wondrous celebration.
What if we sang the Santa song, but instead of Santa thought in terms
of Jesus/God. Surely, the God we believe in is more loving than the
most loving mother, more caring than the most caring father. Surely,
that God loves us beyond our wildest imaginations—even those of that time
long ago when magic reigned and joyful anticipation colored our days.
Surely, then, the promise of new heaven and new earth is not a threat,
but a loving gift. Do you see? Can you feel it? For the
first time, I truly can. How about you?
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