In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place. (Isaiah 11:10, NLT)
I’ve come to believe that American Christianity has an unhealthy fascination with the afterlife. That’s not to say, of course, that what happens to us after we die is inconsequential. The Bible’s teaching about heaven – the promise that those who die in faith will enjoy the presence of the Lord for eternity – has sustained generations of believers in times of hardship and struggle. The reason I think that our focus on the afterlife is unhealthy is that it distracts us from the real-world consequences of our faith. The Bible makes clear that the coming of the Messiah matters in flesh-and-blood terms. The expectation that God will send a righteous ruler isn’t primarily about what will happen in some other time and place, but about what will change about our world. The coming of the Messiah brings justice and peace, healing and wholeness, restoration and renewal to all things. As we continue through this Advent season, may we be bold to look forward to the establishment of a “glorious place”, not just in the sweet by-and-by, but here in our midst. Thanks be to God!
Righteous God, you promise that our world will be changed by the coming of your Son. Change us by the expectation of that coming, that we might live under the banner of your saving love, and rally one another to the cause of our righteous king, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
– Pr. Andrew Chavanak, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church (ELCA), Falls City