During Advent we do live in the past, the present & the future

In Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol, the three ghosts (spirits) of Christmas — the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present and the ghost of Christmas yet to come — appear and show Ebenezer Scrooge Christmas 3 periods in the course of his life.  After the final spirit — the ghost of Christmas-yet-to-come — shows Scrooge that he, too, will die, old Scrooge emerges alive but totally repentant. He emerges a changed man!

Realizing his life has been spared, the first thing Scrooge says is, “I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future.” Scrooge is of course responding to what has happened throughout his own life and many of the decisions he has made that were so self-serving.

But this time is different.  Scrooge owns his stuff (the words he has spoken, the selfish decisions he has made), taking total and complete responsibility for what he has done.  Staring his own death in the face at last gets his attention.  Finally, Scrooge sees his life for what it is.  For the first time in his life, he becomes truly self-aware and decides to repent and change.  And it’s beautiful.

That all gets me thinking about how we should live.  I, too, think we should “live in the Past, the Present and the Future.” At least in this sense…

The Past — “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.'”  (Isaiah 7:14) During Advent we remember this past event which is the core truth of Christmas. God is with us! In time and space, Jesus came and lived on the earth.  He came into the human mess — fully man, fully God.  He died for us, rose again, and he will return in glory one day soon.

The future — “But about that day no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:36-37) As I have watched the news of the worldwide refugee crisis, especially the millions fleeing the conflict in the Middle East, I try and imagine believers of Jesus in beleaguered countries crying out one of the great themes of Advent: “Come Lord Jesus.”  How could they not?  Indeed, one of the great cries of the church always has been the one found in Revelation 22 — “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ ”  We can but reply: “Amen! Come Lord Jesus.”

The Present — “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with the person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20).  This is Jesus speaking to the church of Laodicea, and to us.  And he is simply saying what he always says to those who take the time to listen: “Let me into your heart.”  The present is all we have!

Advent is a time of a heightened awareness of this 3-fold coming of Jesus … the Christ who came to the stable in Bethlehem, the triumphant Lord who returns in great glory in the clouds and the Christ who stands constantly knocking at the door of our heart.

He has not just come in the past.  He is not just coming soon in the future.  He always is at work among the hearts of his people to this very second, if we will but let him in!

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