Advent—A different view
Rev. Dr. Greg Johnson
December 18, 2019
A view through the lens of a gemologist into a diamond reveals colors, cuts, angles, and aspects that expose the source of the diamond, the character of the diamond, and the value of the diamond. Gemologists are conditioned to see what the average individual cannot see; they are taught the fine art of seeing the heart of the stone.
To determine the characteristics, one must know what one is looking for and when it is found. And so, the gemologist turns the stone as he inspects it. He then turns it to view the various sides, angles, and cuts in order to examine the characteristics of the stone, determining its origin, as well as the raw material from which it was hewn.
In 1 Kings 18:21, the prophet Elijah at Mount Carmel inquired of the people of Israel, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” (RSV) The people did not answer Elijah. They had been worshipping at the altars of Jezebel’s gods, committing idolatry and spiritual adultery against the Lord.
Elijah was God’s spiritual gemologist. He inspected the spiritual stones of Israel, he viewed them from every angle, witnessed the color and cut of their character, and found them flawed. Their flaw was their own doing, their flaw was the product of their choices made—and the spokesman of the Lord inquired: “how long” would they live in this flawed condition?
Advent is the season of expectation; it calls us to look for and to long for the coming of the Christ. Followers of Christ look intently for Christ’s coming as a gemologist looks at a stone. This longing is in direct correlation to the suffering that currently exists. As we look, some may ask, in this divisive world, “how long” will it be before Christ returns? Yet, I hear Elijah’s words ringing through the halls of history to this current age, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”
Raising the question of Jesus’ return is not necessarily a bad question to ask, especially as the disinherited are hurting. However, to ignore Elijah’s question continues the debasement of the disinherited. It also conditions the heart to being only concerned about one dimension of one’s faith, while like a diamond, this spiritual journey is multifaceted.
The people responded to Elijah’s probing question with silence. Perhaps it gave them pause and they reflected. In this self-serving culture that speaks of a Jesus as one who serves every whim, Elijah’s soul-searching inquiry should cause us to pause. What if, we entertained that question as a radical reorienting question? Dare we find that it has the potential to transform persons from solidarity with the world to individuals following the Creator? Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, “The Cost of Discipleship” asserts that “Through the call of Jesus men become individuals.”[i]
Our worldview changes when we accept the visceral call to follow the Lord. However, accepting the call to truly follow the Lord involves an abiding commitment. It is the abiding commitment that changes an individual. The world would look drastically different if persons were transformed not only to follow the teachings of Jesus but to live lives that resemble the life of Jesus. No longer would there be the question, when will Jesus return? The reality of Jesus’ coming would be seen in the actions and in the hearts of his disciples.
The world would look drastically different if persons were transformed not only to follow the teachings of Jesus but to live lives that resemble the life of Jesus. No longer would there be the question, when will Jesus return? The reality of Jesus’ coming would be seen in the actions and in the hearts of his disciples.
Compassion would be contagious as we look toward caring for one another. Here, the kingdom of God would be manifested on earth, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 RSV). We would not long for a new earth and a new heaven—this earth would be changed by the hearts of its inhabitants. Creation would no longer wait for “the children of God” (Romans 8:21 RSV); “the children of God” will care not only for themselves but everything that exists, with love.
The love and compassion of humanity would transform this world. Suffering, as it is currently experienced, would be mitigated to a trickle of water. And the suffering that is experienced will be soothed by a society that seeks the highest good for all. All of this would be the result of pondering, that reorienting question of Elijah, as one looks intently at Christ.
The power of the question is not only in the question; the power is raising the question while looking intently at Christ. The view of Christ would not be restricted to that child in a manger or the savior on the cross. The view of Christ would not be only of one who returned to deliver the disinherited. The view of Christ would be the blueprint of his life that would be followed.
Followers would work to see the kingdom of God manifested as Christ proclaimed, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” The kingdom would be a reality as followers spread the contagious compassion of Christ. Equity would be the norm and pride would be crushed. There would be no need to “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream” (Amos 5:24 RSV) because the kingdom principles would dictate all are equal citizens of the kingdom. The view would not be one of waiting for change to happen from outside of ourselves. The view would be of change happening from within our own hearts. This would be the expectation of all.
The Rev. Dr. Greg Johnson is pastor of Cornerstone Community Church, Endicott, N.Y.