General CBF / Missions

Tension and Hope-Reflecting on Advent

The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.”  The focus of the entire season of Advent is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ some 2000 years ago, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in the future.  There is a double focus to Advent, past and the future.  Advent helps us remember a past reality—Christ born, God with us, and look to a future reality—Christ issuing in the fullness of the Kingdom of God.  It is this tension between the past and future, within which hope is born.  For the tension between the past and the future includes the incarnation of God in Christ, the life of Christ and Christ’s death and resurrection.  It is in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ that we find assurance for the forgiveness of sin, reconciliation and our salvation (1 Corinthians 15).  Our hope as Christians is bound to Christ.

This October I had the chance to journey around India and Nepal with CBF field personnel.  In Mumbai, I walked through the maze of alleys that make up the worlds second largest slum.  We stopped and entered a small one-room church.  Inside were about 40 Banjara gypsy children ranging in age from 4-12.  They were sitting on the floor leaning their school lessons.  This school is apart of the ministry of CBF Field Personnel Eddie and Macarena Aldape.  They told me how the children’s parents struggle to work cleaning shrimp on the docks and how they try to protect their children by locking them in their small cottages while they are working.  When the Aldapes discovered this and the fact that the children had no opportunity for school or food during the day, they collaborated with some local Indian ministries to begin the school.  The children sat there and excitedly showed me what they were learning.  The look of joy and hope in the eyes of these kids is evident. 

A favorite Missionary writer from South Africa, David Bosch, writes this about hope.  “When we say, ‘Well, we just hope for the best,’ we are actually saying that evidence is to the contrary.  Hope in this sense is in fact a statement of despair.  Christian hope does not spring from despair about the present time, however; it is based on that which is already a reality.  It is both possession and yearning, repose and activity, arrival and journey.  Hope is the connecting line between the already and the not yet, between the penultimate and the ultimate.  We dream about the future by working to make it come true.  As Paul says in Philippians 3:12, ‘I have not yet reached perfection, but I press on, hoping to take hold of that for which Christ once took hold of me’.  Authentic Christian hope is hope-in-the-process-of-fulfillment” (Bosch 1979: 86-87).     

What does this mean—hope-in-the-process-of-fulfillment?  It means that our hope is born in faith that the journey into renewed relationship with God and ultimate fulfillment of salvation begun now, will find its completion in the future when Christ issues in the fullness of the Kingdom of God.  The Bible tells us that we are saved yet not yet fully.  The kingdom is here yet not fully.  We are in Christ, but we are still sinners.[1] 

The everyday evidence of our salvation and reconciliation in Christ is not very apparent.  Christians still get sick, experience injustice; suffer with illness, know disease and death.  For while we are born anew in Christ by the Holy Spirit, our salvation is eschatological, meaning salvation has come, yet has not been fully completed in the second coming of Christ, we are still sinners and as result we live with the consequences of sin. 

However, as the church celebrates Advent, the in breaking into history of God through Christ, and anticipates the future fulfillment of the fullness of the Kingdom of God, it also acknowledges its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

During Advent, we remind ourselves that our hope in Christ is a fulfilled reality.  Through Christ, God has reconciled the whole world to God self.  As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20,  “And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.  So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!’”  We go into a chaotic world and stand as a witness to the cause of our hope who is Christ. 

This is why we are engaged in Global Missions with each other.  Churches and CBF field personnel are in the world ministering to the most neglected.  This year, 300 million more people around the world are living in poverty than when the global recession began.  We neglect the majority of these people physically and spiritually.  They live on less then a dollar a day.  This poverty literally kills.

We are in this global mission enterprise together.  During this season of Advent, remember, we need your assistance to put field personnel in those places around the world where people do not know the hope of Christ.  As we celebrate Advent, let our lives and actions testify to the hope that we have in Christ and the future fullness of the kingdom of God.  Let us live today in hope, so that the world will know the source of that hope—Jesus Christ. 

[1] “We have already been remade in God’s image (Eph 1:13), we are progressively being remade in his image (2 Cor 3:18), and one day in the future we will be perfectly remade in his image (Phil 3:20-21).  Or, to put it another way, we were saved (2 tim 19:9), we are in the process of being saved (Phil 2: 12-13), and at some future time we will be saved (1 Pet 1:9)” Ken Blue, 108.

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