“Between the Times: Looking Back and Looking Forward”
Isaiah 11:1-10 Revelation 21:1-4 Matthew 11:2-6
Rev. Paul E. Capetz
Christ Church by the Sea (United Methodist)
Newport Beach, California December 1, 2019
Today is the first Sunday in Advent. Advent is the beginning of the Christian year. During Advent we anticipate the celebration of Christmas. At Christmas, of course, we remember the birth of Jesus. This is a form of looking back, looking back to a time when we believe something very special happened that we don’t want to forget. The birth of Jesus is important to us because Jesus is the Christ. Hence, it’s appropriate to look back and to celebrate his birth. But, traditionally, the church has also understood the season of Advent as a time of looking forward to Christ’s final coming in glory and victory, when the forces of evil and death will be conquered once and for all and there will be “a new heaven and a new earth,” as the Book of Revelation prophesies (Rev. 21:1). So, then, at Advent, we stand between the times: we look back to the past and we look forward to the future.
The word “advent” means “coming”: it can thus refer either to the first coming of Christ or to the second coming of Christ. In both cases, we are concerned with the meaning of Christ for our lives. “Christ” is a title and it means “messiah.” “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “messiah.” The messiah is God’s designated representative on earth who is the herald of God’s kingdom when there will be no more sin and evil, no more suffering and death. The ancient Jews first started longing for the coming of a messiah after centuries of oppression under foreign rule. They looked back to the glory days of old when they had a great and mighty king like King David. David was a king beloved of God who ruled over all of the twelve tribes of Israel in a unified kingdom. He was also a brave warrior. You’ll remember how he slew the giant Goliath with his slingshot while he was still just a boy. He was also a musician and a poet who composed many of our beautiful Psalms. What the Jews wanted at the time of Jesus was another glorious king like David. They hoped he would overthrow the Romans and thus restore self-rule to Israel. But they also hoped that this new king David would put an end to all injustice and war on earth. Such a king would rule on behalf of God, and there would no longer be any discrepancy between the world of politics and God’s will for the world. This world would become the Kingdom of God where peace and justice would reign forever.