What if Jesus Comes Back Like That?

I wonder what they were saying about the coming of the messiah in the synagogues of Judea leading up to the first century. Were the rabbis preaching in front of giant, billboard-sized scrolls outlining the "Seven Signs of the Messiah's Appearing"? Did artists busy their brushes painting great images of a conquering king, his sword flashing in the blazing sun as he drove out Rome and all his enemies before him? I wonder, if they had been able, if folks would have produced dramatic motion pictures outlining every detail of the arrival of their idealized version of the Messiah. Would authors have written captivating volumes of fiction describing scenarios surrounding the Messiah's arrival that would have sold millions of copies? Would they have produced DVD series outlining the major prophecies of Isaiah and Hosea concerning the nature of the Messiah? I wonder if they had ever even imagined that he might arrive in a manger-as a baby born to an unknown woman.

I don't know what people might have thought then, but I know that a lot of them missed it. They missed the Messiah in the manger.

I wonder what they are saying about the second coming of the Messiah in the churches of America today. Are preachers shaping their sermons in such a way to paint a detailed picture of what that day will look like? Have books like Left Behind and The Late, Great Planet Earth replaced the wonder and mystery of Scripture? Have the hope, peace, joy, and love of this season been trampled by doomsday predictions right alongside consumerism? Have sermons announcing the ever-increasing evil in the world completely replaced sermons calling Christ's Church to the work of the Master while he is away? Have we become too consumed with what that day will be like that we just might miss it when it comes?

Now don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying the second coming of Christ will be something easily missed, but what if it isn't what we are expecting? What if Jesus comes back with less sky-splitting grandeur than we'd like to see? What if our hopes and fears of that coming day are slightly off target? What if we're like those who rejcted the notion of a Messiah who came as a baby born in a barn to be crucified on a cross? What if Jesus' second Advent is like his first, catching us completely off gaurd (like, say, "a thief in the night")? Will we be ready? Will we be so in love with Christ and the work of his kingdom that we couldn't possibly miss his return? Or will we be so consumed with trying to guess how it will all go down that we'll either miss it or find that we've ignored the kingdom's work right here in our midst?

As we are in this season of Advent, a season that calls our memories back to Bethlehem and our hearts forward to the future coming of Christ, may we live in the loving tension between the two. May we be so caught up in Christ's calling and the work of the kingdom that we look back to Bethlehem and the birth of our Lord with great joy and forward to that coming day with a hope that motivates us to love and make peace here in the present.

I want to end this Advent thought here with a few words from a song Collin Raye released in the mid-1990s that asked, "What if Jesus comes back like that?"
What if Jesus comes back like that
On an old freight train in a hobo hat
Will we let him in or turn our back
What if Jesus comes back like that
Oh what if Jesus comes back like that...
What if Jesus comes back like that
Two months early and hooked on crack
Will we let him in or turn our back
What if Jesus comes back like that
He came to town on a cold dark night
A single star his only light
The baby born that silent night
A manger for his bed
What if Jesus comes back like that
Where will he find out hearts are at
Will he let us in or turn his back
What if Jesus comes back like that
Will he cry when he sees where our hearts are at
Will he let us in or turn his back
What if Jesus comes back like that
Hey what if Jesus comes back like that...
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[1] Collin Raye, "What if Jesus Comes Back Like That" from I Think About You. Released by Epic Records in 1995.

 


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