How to Say “Come”

And so we come to the end. This week, solstice turned the season to winter. Light increased imperceptibly. Earth cast a shadow on the moon.

I failed to watch the eclipse. It was snowing here. Plus I was asleep.

As are the churches in this final prayer of the Scripture and of 2010. Revelation 22:8–21 serves as epilogue to the Apocalypse of John, as well as to the Bible. Just as John has cycled through seals and trumpets and bowls, so he cycles one last time in our passage.

Cycle 1

A: Christ announces his own impending arrival, “Look lively. I am coming” (22:12). The result: those who are awake will wash their robes for holiness (Mark 13:35–37; Exod 19:10–11), enter the City, and eat from the tree of life (Rev 22:14; Gen 3:22–24). Those who doze will stay outside and continue to do evil (Rev 22:15).

B: The Holy Spirit and the Bride invite, “Come.” But this time, these witnesses summon those who are awake and listening to also say, “Come.” Again, the result is free life-water for those who are awake (22:17; Isa 55:1). The lazy will receive plagues and/or forfeit their share of life-tree fruit (Rev 22:18–19).

Cycle 2

A: Christ reiterates, “I am coming. Soon.”

B: Having written the vision, John obeys the Spirit and the Bride by declaring, “Come, Lord Jesus,” and affirming, “Amen,” which is to say, “I believe.”

The Holy Spirit and the wakeful church rouse the people who are nodding off next to them in the pews. “Jesus is coming,” they whisper loud enough for the preacher to hear. “C’mon. Let’s get ready.”

Verse 15 offers an abbreviated list of how not to get ready for Christ’s advent:

  • being a dog (Ps 22:16): being an enemy of God
  • sorcery (Lev 20:6, 27; Rev 18:23): doing drugs; sports doping; manipulating or predicting events based on the solstice and/or the eclipse; reading your horoscope; cursing bad traffic; etc.
  • fornication (Exod 20:14; Matt 5:28; 15:19–20): licentious sex; pornography; objectifying men, women, and children; watching some TV shows, movies, and advertisements; lust; etc.
  • murder (Exod 20:13; Matt 5:21–22): killing with your hands or in your heart; calling someone a fool (see above at cursing bad drivers); etc.
  • idolatry (Exod 20:2–6; Matt 22:37–38): getting your nails done at salons with Buddha statues (?); yielding your integrity to anything that is not your Creator; failing to yield to God; etc.
  • loving and practicing falsehood (Exod 20:16): lying; leaving out relevant bits of truth; some aspects of sales and marketing (?); etc.

Of course, repenting from even this short list is not only daunting, but impossible. I committed the two above listed traffic violations on Monday. And on average, I foul up the bit about yielding my integrity once per hour.

Worse, impossibility does not exempt me from obedience. My only hope is this: that the water of life is free and the prayer is simple. All I have to say is, “Come.”

Scholars debate who, exactly, I must say this to. Am I to join the other wakeful witnesses and pass the urgent whisper down the pew, “C’mon. Let’s get ready”? Or is this church that I woke up in the excitable sort and the call antiphonal. The preacher exclaims, “Come to Jesus before he comes to you and finds you sleeping.” And I cry back, “I believe! Come get me, Jesus!”

John chooses the second interpretation. It’s harder, though. Impossible as avoiding the short list is, trusting Jesus for my daily dose of help in marriage, parenting, writing, and editing is a minute-to-minute choice. My attitude slips. My hope disappears. I can’t see the future. Sometimes, I can’t even plan the next five minutes.

For me, this Advent has been pregnant with expectation. I can feel the shift in season (and not just because we moved to Minnesota), but the increase in light is hardly perceptible. I’m afraid that more light will reveal something I do not like. Water of life sounds distant. I’m not sure I wish to wake from my long winter’s nap.

But the Spirit and the Church cry, “C’mon. Get ready.” And Jesus cries, “I’m already coming.”

I cannot afford to hit the snooze button.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Where has Jesus come to you this past month of Advent? What has tempted you back to sleep? What has roused your sense of anticipation?

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