Advent Devotion: The Return of the King

Post a Comment » Written on December 15th, 2003     
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CHICAGO, IL (December 15, 2003)  – Covenant Communications has been posting  Advent devotionals from more than 250 church newsletters. This one is  written by Timothy Johnson, pastor at Church of the Redeemer in Bowie,  Maryland.

The church sign of one of our neighboring churches caught my attention  the other evening. It read: “Greatly Anticipating the Return of the  King.” During any previous years of Advent this would simply have read  as a statement of faith for Christians – that we ARE in fact eagerly  anticipating Jesus’ return.

This December, however, there is a clear double meaning to the sign. The  third part of the very popular movie version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The  Lord of the Rings trilogy (The Return of the King) is hitting  the theaters this month. The sign and the double meaning behind it have  gotten me thinking about how much we like things packaged and contained,  as in the span of a two-to-three-hour movie. Even when movies are  trilogies and the story line extends forward and back beyond the length  of the movie we watch, there is a certain appeal to established  beginnings and endings. It’s helpful to know where this part of the  story we’re seeing fits into the broader picture. Therefore, there is a  huge difference in grasping what is going on in a movie like The  Return of the King if one has seen the two movies leading up to it,  compared to just seeing part three all by itself.

However, “The Return of the King” referenced on the church’s sign is not  about a movie. It’s about a reality. It’s about a promise: our king WILL  come, someday, one day, perhaps today. And neither His story nor His  presence can be contained in a neat and “graspable” package, even if it  is a highly symbolic movie based on a profound trilogy. Our king spills  out beyond the packaging into which we try to contain Him. He breaks  through barriers, He removes dividing walls, He cuts through joints and  marrow and moves into the depths of people’s hearts. He recreates old  life into new life and rewrites the script we had settled for. He spills  out across the breadth of life in ways that are unpredictable and full  of raw beauty.

Sweetly styled images of a chubby baby Jesus – come to bring peace and  happiness to humankind – are inadequate. The salvation that He brings is  not a nice add-on that will smooth out one’s life – it is  revolutionizing. It is a top-to-bottom stripping away of the old and an  infusing of the new. It is our king who brings death to our old selves  and gives birth to our new selves. Not something that can be contained.  Not neatly packaged. And not to be taken lightly.

One of my favorite Christmas hymns is Christina Rosetti’s “In the Bleak  Midwinter.” For years I have loved the haunting melody of this hymn and  its driving force: giving all of what one has to Jesus Christ. However,  I have lately become captivated by the first phrase of the second  stanza: “Our God, heav’n cannot hold him, nor earth sustain; heav’n  and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.” The biblical  reference behind this is from King Solomon’s prayer of dedication upon  completing the temple in Jerusalem. He asked God in prayer (2 Chronicles  6:18): “But will God really dwell on earth with men? The heavens,  even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple  I have built!”

As you proceed through Advent, ask God to push through whatever  containers or packaging that you have tried to place upon Him. Invite  Him to expand, excite and infuse your awareness of what it is to live in  the daily presence of the real king “who was and is and who is to come.

To read devotionals posted earlier, visit the following:

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