Advent Vespers 2
2 Peter 3:13-14
2Pet. 3:13 But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
2Pet. 3:14 Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
We are time-bound creatures. Time enslaved at times. We are creatures of the clock, chasing the clock through the day and into the night, always asking “What time is it?” anxiously wondering if we have enough time. Our lives are governed by time. We wake up at a certain time of day and go to sleep at a certain time. There are fixed times for meals, for a bath or shower, for most of the things we do in life. It seems we never have enough time.
When you stop and think about it, time is kind of an odd thing, if it’s a “thing” at all. How do you run out of time if you can’t store it up? Einstein and the physicists have much to say about time, precious little of which I understand and don’t have time to read. What we do know of time from the Bible is that there was s beginning and there will be an ending, and alpha point and an omega point. The Bible begins at the alpha point of time “in the beginning” and it ends in the Revelation at the omega point.
In Genesis, day and night were all that was needed to have a “day,” with the transition periods of evening and morning. Evening was day into night, morning was night into day. God spoke in the day, and His speaking filled the day. By the end of the sixth day, God had said everything that needed to be said to have a cosmos. So on the seventh day, He said nothing creative. He rested in what He had said. The creation was very good. The seventh day was holy. And that was about all you needed to know concerning time. The month you could track by the moon, the year by the sun. Those were a little squishy and needed to be corrected now and then, but the movement from darkness to light is what gave meaning to time. The day.
In our inventiveness, we divided the day, first into watches of the day and the night, and then into the hours, minutes, and seconds we live by today. Those are our ways of reckoning time. It’s a great way to run trains and do business, but God is above and beyond all that. Clocks and calendars determine the course of our lives; they do not determine the course of God’s actions. The end, like the beginning, is enshrouded in mystery. We know not the day or the hour.
And by all reckoning, Jesus seems to be taking His sweet time. For One who promises “I am coming soon” as well as “quickly,” he doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry. So much so that Christians speaking of the coming of Christ can sometimes sound a bit like Linus in the pumpkin patch awaiting the coming of the Great Pumpkin who never seems to come. But God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His notion of time is not the same as ours. We experience things one at a time in a sequence. Chronological time. The past is gone, nothing more than a memory and a few photographs and videos. The future is uncertain, we don’t even know we have one or how much there will be. The present moment is all that we have, and it’s an infinitesimally thin slice of time called “now.”
But for God, who is eternally present tense as the “I AM” and “the one who was and is and is to come” all at the same time, “a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a single day.” God just doesn’t keep time the way we do. He sits above and beyond all time in an eternity for which all time is in the present “now.” And God’s seeming “slowness” to act on our timetable is not really slowness so much as it is patient forbearance, not wanting anyone to perish but that all should reach repentance. He’s in no hurry because it is already finished in Christ and His death and resurrection, and God wants everyone in on the party.
Make no mistake. There is a coming Day. A Day that comes suddenly and without warning, the way a thief comes in the middle of the night and doesn’t phone ahead to warn you. The created order as we know it will pass away. The heavens, the earth, the elemental things will be dissolved with fire. Fire is a sign of God’s wrath, His burning anger over what has happened to His very good cosmos and what we, as His priests, have done. The first destruction of the earth was with water in the Flood. God swore by the rainbow in the sky that He’d never do that with water again. Next time, it’s fire.
John the Baptist spoke of Jesus as One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Fire did rain down from heaven at Pentecost, but it was more like the fire of the burning bush that didn’t burn in the wilderness where Moses first encountered Christ. Gospel fire rather than Law fire. Fire that consumes is also fire that purifies, burning the dross but leaving the gold. For the believer in Christ, for sinner/saint who is baptized in the judgment of Christ and who has died and risen with Him, the fire of the last Day is a refining fire that burns away the sinner leaving a 24 karat saint to stand before the judgment throne of God to receive not condemnation but salvation.
That’s why as frightful as the sound of the fiery day may be, we wait for it and hurry it along, so to speak, the way a little child tries to compress the time to Christmas. Can’t wait for the day to arrive, because the end of the old also means the beginning of the new – a new heavens and a new earth in which dwells righteousness.
You, dear baptized believers, are children of that day. As the days grow shorter and the time draws ever closer, you stand on the threshold of a new morning, a new creation, a new heavens and a new earth. Already now, in Christ, you are a new creation. In Christ, the old has already gone, the new has already come. John the Baptist did the last watch of the night for us. The 3 AM watch when everything is dark, but a faint glow appears on the horizon signaling that the dawn is near. You already live in the Day by faith (not quite yet by sight). Christ has risen! The Day has dawned. “Behold, I make all things new,” He says.
Does this affect our lives now? Of course it does! Do you wait for the King in your pajamas? No! You put on your finest, you trim your lamps and fill them with oil, you get ready. “Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” He has washed you with water and the Word to present you spotless, holy, and blameless on the day of His coming. Be clothed with Christ, and get ready to meet your King.
In the name of Jesus,