Waiting, Hope, Expectation
This is Advent - the time when we begin to look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus. There is still spiritual magic in this for me. The message is wonderful. The carols are very special. Maybe because of the economic troubles, fears and global bad news throughout this year, Christmas seems even more of a respite, an oasis, an opportunity to be happy, a cause for celebration.
Of course, we in the Church know this is a deeply important and real time and is not just a mid-winter festival - a cultural anti-depressant. Waiting is really waiting for Jesus Christ. And, throughout the last near 2000 years, Christians have been waiting for Jesus Christ. Some Christian individuals and groups have even prepared for Jesus' Second Coming, having become convinced that He will actually appear at a certain time. This has been true especially in nutty America but in Africa also, from time to time, charismatically inclined Christian societies proclaim the immanent return of Jesus to earth.
There are also examples of false prophets in this context.
(1) A 62-year-old ex-felon claims to be the second coming of Jesus Christ and says he has as many as 1 million followers in 30 countries. Jose de Jesus, who is now living outside Houston, Texas, said he married twice, smokes and likes Scotch. ABC News quotes de Jesus as saying that he grew up in poverty, had a heroin addiction and spent nine months in prison for eight felony charges along the way. However, the man who claims to be Jesus says he never gets drunk just as the original Jesus. 'Jesus drank wine because he didn't have Dewar's', de Jesus told ABC news. In his teachings, de Jesus says that the Roman Catholic Church is evil and that 'Before the presence of God, there's no more sin'. However, he also doesn't advocate the presence of devil and says prayers are not essential. He believes that after Jesus of Nazareth died and was resurrected, one can not do any wrong in God's eyes. When the newspaper asked to explain his identity, de Jesus said, 'Jesus Christ, man, the second manifestation, the Second Coming of Christ'.
2) Someone called Mike Curtiss is another example of this bizarre behaviour. He prophesied that a war would happen over Passover 2009 - that is our Holy Week - (Hebrew calendar year 5769) and the rapture will happen right after. Apparently he thought that a gamma ray burst in 2008 was a year warning. A critic wrote, a warning, to be a warning, needs to be obvious to those that were being warned otherwise it is just a made up lie by a false prophet to bolster their false prophecies. NOBODY except false prophet Mike Curtiss (and his followers) thinks the gamma ray bursts of last year were a warning for anything. Why are these gamma ray bursts not mentioned in the Bible if they are supposed to be 'year markers' and 'warnings' as false prophet Mike Curtiss claims? And why doesn't anyone else know about this??? It did not happen of course.
3) I wonder of any of you remember the book The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson. He was a Pentecostal Pastor in New York in the nineteen sixties who preached to and formed saving relationships with gang members. His book was made into a film and he became world famous for a time. One of his converts, Nicky Cruz toured the world and visited Scotland on several occasions. Wilkerson continues to minister and has a website. Recently he sent out a bizarre message. It said:
I am compelled by the Holy Spirit to send out an urgent message to all on our mailing list, and to friends and to bishops we have met all over the world.
AN EARTH-SHATTERING CALAMITY IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN. IT IS GOING TO BE SO FRIGHTENING, WE ARE ALL GOING TO TREMBLE - EVEN THE GODLIEST AMONG US.
For ten years I have been warning about a thousand fires coming to New York City. It will engulf the whole megaplex, including areas of New Jersey and Connecticut. Major cities all across America will experience riots and blazing fires—such as we saw in Watts, Los Angeles, years ago.
There will be riots and fires in cities worldwide. There will be looting—including Times Square, New York City. What we are experiencing now is not a recession, not even a depression. We are under God’s wrath. In Psalm 11 it is written,
'God is judging the raging sins of America and the nations. He is destroying the secular foundations'.
In Psalm 11:6, David warns, 'Upon the wicked he will rain snares (coals of fire)…fire…burning wind…will be the portion of their cup'. Why? David answered, 'Because the Lord is righteous' (v. 7). This is a righteous judgement—just as in the judgements of Sodom and in Noah’s generation.
WHAT SHALL THE RIGHTEOUS DO? WHAT ABOUT GOD’S PEOPLE?
First, I give you a practical word I received for my own direction. If possible lay in store a thirty-day supply of non-perishable food, toiletries and other essentials. In major cities, grocery stores are emptied in an hour at the sign of an impending disaster.
I will say to my soul: 'No need to run...no need to hide. This is God’s righteous work. I will behold our Lord on his throne, with his eye of tender, loving kindness watching over every step I take—trusting that he will deliver his people even through floods, fires, calamities, tests, trials of all kinds'.
Note: I do not know when these things will come to pass, but I know it is not far off. I have unburdened my soul to you. Do with the message as you choose.
God bless and keep you,
(4) Another Christian group is saying that God has withdrawn his Holy Spirit and that is why there is no restraint on social wickedness. This group says that the fact that God has directed the Holy Spirit, to withdraw the Holy Spirit's restriction on lawlessness, is irrefutably evidenced by the exponential increase in sin that has occurred in the world within the last few months! YOU are now in 'the time of the end', 'the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet'. It is NOW TIME for the 'Born Again' Children of God to prepare themselves as a Bride, for the SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST! YOU ARE CURRENTLY IN THE SEVEN YEAR TRIBULATION PERIOD THAT IMMEDIATELY PRECEDES THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST! They calculate this as likely to be the date 12 12 2012 and it is related to peace settlements and negotiations in Israel and the role of Barack Obama.
We all enjoy a snigger and a laugh at American Christianity. It seems such a deluded morass of nonsense and delusion. We should remember though that there are many sincere and good Christian men and women in America who are much better Christians than we are. Who are committed, who pray daily with their families, who tithe their earnings and who do not equate Christianity with the United States of America. But - for sure - there are examples of confusion and falsehood and these are obvious in predictions of Jesus' Second Coming.
The Church has always had to answer questions about the fact that Jesus has never reappeared on earth as He seems to have suggested that He would do. Some early Christians expected Jesus to return in their lifetimes and He did not. Some answers to this problem are known as The Five Theories. These give explanations that equate Jesus’ Second Coming with things that did happen.
1) Jesus’ Second Coming was fulfilled at Pentecost
2) Jesus comes again when each new Christian is converted
3) Jesus comes again at our death
4) Jesus came again at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD
5) Jesus Second Coming is seen in the spread of Christianity throughout the world
I think all of these are true in their own way. Jesus is most certainly present in the world in a way that is more powerful and influential than he was in His life in Judea. He has not come in final judgement however. The world as we know it has not ended.
The reason I share these with you this morning is this. Because it is our calling, duty and responsibility to wait for Jesus and to expect Him. Advent should have an edge to it for us. It is a spiritual quickening and a spiritual encouraging opportunity. We are meant to sharpen our thinking about who Jesus was and is. We are to be conscious of our part in His life and people. In Advent we are to take Jesus seriously. This is a time for evaluation and for confession, for putting things right and setting higher standards of Christian devotion.
We can feel superior setting up these American Aunt sallies to shoot down, but we should guard against familiarity and complacency in our own Christian life and community. The sharper you are as a Christian - the more you will enjoy Christmas. There is a spiritual blessing poured out on Christians at this time. It is not just our own energy and optimism taking over reality. There is a Christian excitement that is real and tangible and that is great. We are allowed to be joyous. Let us therefore enjoy.
We don’t need to spend too much, eat too much or drink too much to enjoy Christmas. But the wonder and nature of our Maker’s gift to us in Jesus Christ and the particular manner of His coming to earth is so moving and inspiring, uplifting and fulfilling - that we should use this time of Advent creatively. It is a time of great potential blessing. At the core of everything - there is this great matter - it is true that Jesus came to earth and that He was and is the Messiah, the Son of God, your Saviour. He is alive. He loves you. He will accompany you through your life and you will meet Him in heaven.