Advent, the general election, and the kingdom we long for
The coming of Christ was political then and it's political today, writes Andy Goodliff, inviting us to pray for an experience of the reconciling, healing, peace-making work of God to spread amongst, within and across the myriads of spaces we inhabit
Advent is a funny time of year. It’s always in competition to carve out its own space apart from Christmas. It's a pilgrimage time, we’re ascending the mountain that is Christmas, some rushing ahead, some going more slowly and some wishing they could start the descent down the other side already. We are also on our way to the New Jerusalem, or perhaps we’re waiting for the New Jerusalem to come to us.
This Advent feels different because in the middle of it is an election, an election where there feels like no good result. Just as Casear Augustus issued a decree that census should be taken, so we have been given the task of going to the ballot box. The coming of Christ was political then and it's political today. We’re caught between living in one kingdom, and longing for another kingdom to come.
Advent makes us political for we are in that space between what is and what we pray will be. Advent pushes our horizons from the immediate to the ultimate, from the present to the future. It gives hope where the immediate fills us with despair. One day will be different. One day the feast of Christmas will mirror the kingdom feast painted by Isaiah (chs.2, 25, 65) and the book of Revelation (Chs.19, 21, 22).
Because there is an election we are invited to ask a whole set of Advent-like questions concerned with justice and with mercy. How long will the use of Foodbanks continue to rise? How long will it be before we start the kind of house building that is required? How long will it be before waiting times in the NHS fall? How long will it be before we find a solution to social care?
Alongside these questions we are invited to explore where is the kind of Advent-vision concerned with wellbeing, welcome and welfare? December the 12th will be a day of judgement that invites us to consider the Day of Judgement that is to come.
Our pilgrimage through these days will be different this year. The message of Advent to wake up, be alert, be ready, collides with the reality of where we are. Where do we grow from here, our President Ken Benjamin has been asking. Every time I hear that question, I find myself asking the question who is the ‘we’ — my congregation? My Baptist family, local, regional and national? Churches Together in England? The United Kingdom?
Advent invites us to grow towards the coming kingdom, to look towards the promised future of God, to enlarge the ‘we’ ever wider, to pray for an experience of the reconciling, healing, peace-making work of God to spread amongst, within, across the myriads of spaces we inhabit. This Advent there is work to be done, gospel work, political work, reconciling work. We go to it hoping and believing in the promised end, in good company, asking how then shall we live?
Image | Unsplash
Andy Goodliff is minister of Belle Vue Baptist Church, Southend
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