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Thought for the weekend: Advent season speaks of the coming of God

Allen Sleith: Hillsborough Presbyterian Church

Tomorrow is the beginning of Advent. For many people it's a season that doesn't rate nearly as highly as Christmas, to which it's often considered the mere prelude to the real thing.

I think we'd do better to revise that notion, for increasingly, I believe it is of the very essence of the 'adventure' that is the Christian life.

'Advent' speaks of the coming of God to his creations, especially to humanity. God takes the initiative, coming to meet us in Jesus the Christ, free to come and go, to speak and act, to judge and save in the utterly sovereign way that befits the divine mission. Part of the glory of such grace is that it is given as a gift without any contribution on our part whatsoever. The good news begins, always, with God.

Our response, however, can well be described as 'venture'. The knotty theological issue here is to do with exploring the nature of that response, and for millennia people have contended long and hard over the 'how' and 'what' of our capacity to respond to God's prior action. The classical answer, logical conundrum as it may strike some, is that the Spirit of God enables humans to respond to God in faith so that we venture out of our own self-centredness, seeking to live a new life on the basis of God's gift of grace in Christ.

The heart of the biblical message is the good news of God's advent in Christ, coming to meet us at our points of need, initiating an appropriate response in which we venture forth, going out into this beloved but beleaguered world, inspired with a fresh sense of faith, hope and love, reflecting Christ himself.

The fact that this happens, at least in this part of the world, during the darkest time of the year, serves to highlight the illuminating dynamic at work here.

If the Christian life is truly an 'adventure' - God's 'advent' and our 'venture' - divine coming close and human going forth, consider also the middle part of that word 'adventure' - 'vent'. A vent is an opening, a gap or space through which the breath or Spirit of life comes and goes; God bringing Christ to us and us to him, as Romans 8 would have it.

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