As we prepare to move on from leading All Saints’ in the New Year, I suppose it is not surprising that I find myself looking back and mulling over many of the things which have happened over the last fourteen years. Inevitably it is the particular joys and encouragements (and there have been far too many to call to mind completely) which stand out.
I look around at the numbers of people who have come to faith in Christ during this time and who are now pressing on in fruitful discipleship and service in the church and community. I recall those who have experienced significant emotional or physical healing and who can testify to the transforming power of Christ in their lives. I think of those who have experienced healing of marriages or relationships. I rejoice over those who have experienced liberation from either demonic bondage, fears and anxieties, or from the consequences of bad choices made by themselves or others. I think of the lady in whose house Daniel and I prayed last week after a series of inexplicable and frightening events had taken place, at the way in which the peace of Christ descended on her and on her home as we prayed, and at her testimony to experiencing a powerful sense of the presence of God resting on her.
All of these demonstrations of God’s power underline for us the reality that, in Jesus, and with the outpouring of the Spirit, God’s rule has dawned on earth and the rule of evil and darkness has been turned back. Jesus’ promise that, in Him, those estranged from God would hear Good News of reconciliation and forgiveness, the sick would be healed, the trapped and bound would be freed, and the goodness of God made known is demonstrated as coming about in the lives of people today. When confronted with events such as those unfolding in Paris, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, how welcome such reassurance appears.
Yet, of course, we are all too aware that, despite the presence of God’s Kingdom rule and the turning back of those things which threaten human thriving, nevertheless we do not yet see God’s rule fully manifest on earth. We have been given a taste of that All Saints’ Church – St Paul’s Church, Strines … … DECEMBER 2015 which will one day fully come. Indeed, this taste is designed to cause us to hunger for more, to fix our eyes on the destination to which history is heading, that day when Jesus will return to sum up all things and to restore all things.
It is, ultimately, only the discipline of keeping our eyes fixed on that destination, the fulfilment of all things, which equips us to live hopefully and faithfully in the present age. The knowledge that the human story does have a meaning and purpose injects a sense of purpose into the way we conduct ourselves and make choices in the here and now. The fact that what we do today can have eternal significance is an encouragement to live well. The truth that the best is yet to be keeps us from investing too much hope (and too many resources) in this present age.
This season of Advent is the time when we allow our imagination to run riot as we reflect on the Bible’s teaching on God’s future. The knowledge that Jesus will one day be revealed openly as the true and gracious Lord and that He will bring about His good reign over all creation should encourage us and spur us on in numbers of ways. It should fuel the urgency with which we pray for God’s reign to come in our days on earth as in heaven. It should give us confidence to live well even in the midst of life challenges and disappointments and the suffering which is part and parcel of this present age. It should give us confidence to minister God’s grace and healing presence into the lives of others and to help them experience His reconciliation, healing and deliverance.
Advent is the season which reminds us that the best is yet to be. May that be true in our own lives and in the life of All Saints’, St Paul’s and GLO churches as we move forwards under God. Nad joins me in wishing you a hope-filled Advent and a very Happy Christmas.