Magazine article The Christian Century


Magazine article The Christian Century


Article excerpt

Sunday, December 3 Jeremiah 33:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Psalm 25:1-9; Luke 21:25-36

IN HIS BOOK Abel's Island William Steig tells the story of a mouse (Abel) who is marooned on an island for an entire year. In the first part of the book, Abel is all alone on the island. Unlike the participants in the Survivor TV series, he has no one around to help him survive--or to vote him off the island and thereby return him to his home.

All during fall and winter, Abel is lonesome. Then, on a spring day, Gower Glackens appears. Gower is a huge bullfrog who is swept along by powerful currents in the water and deposited on Abel's island. At first Abel is overjoyed to have a companion, but soon he discovers that Gower has a maddening habit of regularly drifting off into a trance. During these times Abel must patiently wait for Gower to "wake up."

When I preach to a congregation about the second coming, or as Paul says, "the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints," I often feel that I am Abel trying to communicate with Gower Glackens. As I begin to explore this topic, I find most of my listeners experiencing a grand case of MEGO ("My Eyes Glaze Over"). Most of us can gear up for another round of Christmas festivities in honor of the "first coming." But when we raise the topic of Jesus' second coming, we find ourselves looking into unblinking, glazed-over Gower eyes. When this happens, it's hard to be as patient as Abel was.

A few years ago, I discovered a song that helps me during this time of the year--Carly Simon's "Anticipation." It begins: "We can never know about the days to come, but we think about them in many ways." That crystallizes the dilemma of this Sunday. Indeed, we don't know much about what God has in store for the world in the days to come, but as faithful people, we are invited by Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus to think about those days. Then, when our thinking is done, the psalmist invites us to pray about those days, lifting our total selves to God and asking God to deal with us out of steadfast love. That's where we should end--in prayer and self-offering--but we still have to do some thinking before we get there.

As I think with anticipation, I try to prevent myself from drifting into the traps that millennialists have encountered. …

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