What is Advent about? Preparation for Christmas, yes. We recall the first coming of Christ and look to God bringing all creation to completion in Christ. However, it is tempting to give up on the final fulfilment of creation because of the, often, apocalyptic nature of the hope. It seems people have always tended towards apocalypticism of one kind or another. Not just Christians. The Bolsheviks were apocalypticists of the atheistic kind. Daesh is an example of a contemporary Islamic apocalyptic group. So, assaulted by this apocalypticism, it is tempting to ignore the question fo the end. But the final completion of creation is a crucial piece of belief. Without it, everything else unravels, and we end up in a meaningless landscape. Whatever we may think of the detail of the ‘end of the world’ and Christ’s part in it, and despite some excellent questions we might want to ask about it, the End means that the story of creation has a meaning. A story without an end approaches meaninglessness the longer it goes on. Our own lives are like this: if we lived forever we would lose our identity, our uniqueness and have our lives leeched of their meaning. A meaningless reality has no God; a meaningful reality has a God who creates and loves it and intends to bring it to fulfilment.
To Hate So We Can Love
Hate those we love? Even life itself? Renounce that which we possess? Paul Nuechterlein has a helpful way into understanding this passage. (See here.) He uses that strange and ambiguous saying. “I love X to death.” Does this mean that we will love X until we die? Or perhaps that we will suck the life out of X? If the latter, and in a similar hyperbolic fashion, it would make sense that the antidote is to hate X to life. The insight is that what we love we love in our interest, and this distorts the relationship. In contrast, God does not relate to us out of self-interest, but for us. God does not need us, which is why God’s relationship to us is love.
Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily ask us to make a crass choice between the world and Jesus. Paradoxically it might seem, discipleship asks us to hate so we can love. (Scripture likes paradoxes like this. I’m thinking here of the paradoxical perfect freedom found in being a slave of Christ.)
The Lost Sheep
And for the thinking behind a sermon on the parable of the lost sheep, see here.
For more of Warren’s work see his blog.