Advent Theme: Witness
I grew up in a Christian denomination that was focused on the conversion experience. The re-orientation of one’s heart toward Christ was the perceived moment of salvation. I serve, as a pastor, in a denomination that teaches that salvation is complete through God’s own work and that our responsiveness to that work is the life of faith. The “moment of decision” happens every day, multiple times, when we make the choices that indicate a life lived in imitation of Christ, serving others and the world that God made.
That being said, Western Christianity has shifted in the past centuries to make faith an intellectual pursuit, an issue of correct thinking and understanding. If there is anything that John the Revelator is trying to make clear, it is that the life of faith is not about mental comprehension, but about physical and spiritual witness to the Lamb (Christ) and against the beast (Rome).
Those whose words and deeds bear witness to Christ’s power and might may be martyred. They may die an ignominious death at the hands of rebellious and oppressive people, who are angry, envious, or simply depraved. Be that as it may, the ones who believe cannot allow their witness to falter.
As the imagery becomes complicated, pull back from the details. Look at the whole forest, not the individual trees. John has planted a grove of images that are meant to bear the fruit of faithful behavior in Christian community- mutual love, care for the outcasts, and worship of the one true God. Do you feel like you already read these points before? You did. Apocalyptic texts are repetitive because they are trying to send a clear message. John does not deviate from the form.
Potential takeaways: Even when things are confusing or busy, faithful living happens in all of our daily choices. What would Jesus have me do- in the store, at work, with my family, relaxing, or as a citizen? We all have work to do for God’s kingdom. Are we doing it?
Dear God, what is the work that You would have me do? Guide me in stillness, that I may perceive Your voice, understand Your directions, and work toward Your perfect will. Amen.