Advent Reflection 18: Anxiety

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Mt. 6:34).

Not too many months back a well-meaning man and his son knocked on my door, awkward, tracts in hand. Below is the conversation as I remember it. I don’t think it is far from verbatim.

Me: “Hi…”

Man: “If you died today, do you know for certain you would not go hell?”

Me: “No.”

Man: “Would you like to be certain of that?”

Me: “Yes.”

Man: [Handing me tract] “Read this…”

Me: “Jesus said not to be anxious about tomorrow. I feel like you are trying to make me feel anxious about tomorrow.”

Man: “I thought you said you didn’t know for certain whether or not you would not go to hell when you died.”

Me: “I did. But I’m not anxious about hell. My faith is in Jesus, not in heaven, and certainly not in not going to hell. At any rate, Jesus is the Judge, so I’d rather put my trust in the Judge than in the verdict. Wouldn’t the latter just be mistaking myself as judge?”

[Very long, awkward pause–I waited.]

Man: “Okay, well I hope you get a chance to read this.”

Me: “Thanks. Have a good one.”

When the angels proclaimed the first Advent of Christ it came with a message: “Fear not!” (see yesterday’s reflection). I can’t help but think that our preaching about the second Advent of Christ should sound similar. Below is an example of what I think that might look like, singing with the angels and whatnot:

I’ve probably watched this video 100 times. I love it. To me, it is a symbol of true evangelism, of what it should look like to herald good news: not a hit-and-run proposition of ‘the kingdom-of-God-and-way-out-of-hell hereafter’ but a public declaration of ‘the kingdom of God at hand’. Its aim is not to promote the wretchedness of man or the rightness of the Church but rather to proclaim the glory of God, for which the most appropriate mode of communicating is song.

All evangelism is imposing, but true evangelism like this is imposing in the right way, like a sunset is imposing on the western horizon, like stars are imposing on our attempt to gaze only into the dark matter of the universe. It’s an imposition of of light, of beauty, of joy–whoever has complained of such an imposition? Satan himself must struggle with this temptation, biting both tips of his tongue with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength to keep himself under constraint. I wouldn’t be surprised if even that dried up old prickly pear occasionally falls off the wagon in the irresistible desire to join in with what all creation was made to do (Ps. 19)–to “worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness!” (Ps. 96:9). What is evangelism if not public worship? What is public worship if not Harking the Herald angels’ sing?!

And, indeed, worship offered up to God–be it in a life lived, a sacrifice made, a song sung–always is about gravitation, not polarization, because it seeks to articulate not how fear-worthy hell is and anxious we should feel about it–that’s just not the point–but how love-worthy God is and how peaceful we should feel about Him. That is, it points to the centerpiece of all time and space in the One who was lifted up on a cross to “draw all people to himself” (Jn. 12:32).

So the syntax of worship is not ‘If…then…’ as much as it is ‘Hallelujah!…because:

“The kingdom of this world is become
The kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ!
And of His Christ!

And He shall reign for ever and ever!
And he shall reign forever and ever!
And he shall reign forever and ever!
And he shall reign forever and ever!

King of kings–forever and ever–Hallelujah! hallelujah!
King of kings–forever and ever–Hallelujah! hallelujah!
King of kings–forever and ever–Hallelujah! hallelujah!
King of kings–forever and ever–Hallelujah! hallelujah!

This must have been similar to what John saw and heard from the angel that flew over “all tribes, tongues, and nations,” singing “everlasting good news” (Rev. 14:6): News that is always here. News that is always good. Indeed, news that is always new, and thus the only news that is ever new–God with us!

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