Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Advent Seventeen

Heaven and hell exist in the present tense – which is why I find it so strange to come across people who don’t believe in one or the other, or both.

Some days I live in heaven: where love is shared; where those on the margins are enfolded within community; where broken lives find healing and wholeness. But, at least for now, living in heaven continuously is not sustainable.

Some days I live in hell: existing in experienced separation from the source of love and life. But hell does not go on for ever (Jesus spent time in hell, somehow being good news and holding out hope; so at least we know God is at work even here).

I am not using ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ as metaphors to describe something else, but in an absolutely literal – albeit not final – sense. We can all relate to this, for we have all participated in both. Some days, we live in both simultaneously.

Death, judgement, hell, and heaven – the so-called four last things – are traditional Advent themes. Which might sound quite bleak, until we understand each in the light of Jesus’ coming-again into the world, until we see each transformed through him.

Death. The full stop, at the end of every life; torn open, thrown into the air, become a semi-colon; the pause before our story carries on…

Judgement. Anyone who has ever feared accusation, but found themselves affirmed instead will have an insight into God’s judgement on humanity – the sheer release, relief, encouragement, gratitude…

Hell. We have all suffered loss, in all our relationships – not only bereavement, but misunderstandings, regrets. Here is the promise that everything that is redeemable will be redeemed, and everything that harms will be consumed forever…

Heaven. Fully-established. This world made new. Right relationship between every living thing…

Four last things, not because these four cannot be moved, but because with their transformation – death into life; judgement into love; hell into heaven; heaven into earth – the work begun in Christ is brought to its completion.

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