ADVENT: DAY TWO
The great cry of Advent is maranatha, an Aramaic exclamation dear to early Christians. It means, “O Lord, come!” The first believers had seen the death of Jesus and received the promise of his coming again. They lived with an imminent sense of Christ’s return, yet they did not see it, nor did their children. In fact, the Christian Bible ends with these final five words: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
From beginning to end, the biblical story is about people who believe two things at once: God’s coming is both present and future, already…but not yet. In the meantime, they declare, we must pray and work with that divine ideal as our constant guide, our North Star, which is both countercultural and massively beautiful! Maranatha became their cry of hope and protest. They would not let the dominant culture swallow up their faith in a beloved community ushered in—finally—by their returning Lord.
Advent teaches us to wait like that, to hold out for something better. Social, economic, and political voices tell us that domination systems are inevitable, so we’d better just throw our lot in with the powerful, and devil take the hindmost. Some religious and spiritual voices tell us that the point of faith is our own personal salvation, and we don’t need to worry about the most vulnerable, the poor, the pushed-around, the forgotten. The Market will sort that out.
Against those voices we simply say, maranatha, Christian code for, “Sorry, not buying it.” And “Thanks, but me and my people see it differently.”
I confess I don’t have enough faith to shout that Aramaic protest, but this Advent I want at least to whisper, maranatha.