Recommended readings: Psalms 122; 145, Amos 2:6-16, 2 Peter 1:1-11, Matthew 21:1-11
What does it mean to wait for Christ? In one sense it means preparing our hearts and spirits for the promise of Christmas. Whether we all agree about the historical details of the nativity, we share a fairly common understanding about its message. In another sense, it means preparing ourselves for the return of Christ at some future time — and we have a lot less agreement about what that means. Some of us think of it as a literal embodiment of Revelation. Others are less certain of the details but envision a physical return. Still others think of it in metaphorical terms and don’t much separate the future Kingdom of Heaven from the present. Almost certainly none of us knows exactly, and Christ will continue to thwart expectations. It’s kind of his thing.
In Matthew 21, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem on a donkey. This gesture symbolized his defiance of both Roman authority and the expectations of the Jewish people. The Jews were expecting a warrior messiah, a political figure who would throw off the chains of Roman tyranny in bloodshed and battle. Instead, they got a man who refused earthly titles and allowed his persecutors to execute him. A donkey where they expected a stallion.
Jesus will throw over our expectations as well (if he hasn’t already). So how should we prepare? Maybe the best thing to do is carry on as if we don’t really know what to expect. Because we don’t.
The second letter of Peter advises us to cultivate the qualities describing a life in Christ, each quality laying a foundation for the next: goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love. Without them he says our vision of Christ is nearsighted and blind (2 Peter 1:5-9). Before we make the same mistake as Christ’s contemporaries and insist our understanding of the messiah must be the right one — or insist someone else’s must be the wrong one —let’s concentrate on working up the rungs of Peter’s ladder of virtues from goodness to love. Those rungs are held together between rails of humility and faith. As we hope for Christ’s return, let’s hold tightly to both.
Comfort: We can always grow while we wait to encounter Christ more fully.
Challenge: At the end of each day this week, reflect on where you might have better exercised humility.