Sunday, November 29, 2009

Maranatha.... Come, Lord Jesus...

Although Advent makes it clearer, it is amazing how many times we pray "Come, Lord Jesus" or in the language of the ancient Church -- Maranatha. A child learns to pray before eating, "Come, Lord Jesus." The hymns of old include something more than 130 instances when we bid the Lord "come" in song. Perhaps the clearest is the wonderful Advent hymn, "Savior of the Nations, Come." Every Sunday in the Eucharistic prayer of Divine Service (Settings 1 & 2) we add our voices to the prayer: "Come, Lord Jesus."

Yet for all our praying and singing of these words, I wonder if we really want Him to come. We live so much of our lives in isolation from the Lord, areas of our daily routines where, for all intents and purposes, we have cut the Lord off and chosen to live on our own strength and power. How can we bid Him come and still choose to leave Him out of part of who we are and what we do?

For all our singing and praying, I wonder if we really want Him to come. Some of us are pretty comfortable here. We have jobs that we like, families that we love, economic security and hopes and dreams of things we want to see or do or experience. Many of us want the Lord to come only after all our list of dreams and choices has been fulfilled. We don't want the Lord to rush it and deprive us of all those things we want.

For all our complaining and frustrations about the things in our lives, many of us are far more at ease with the misery we know than the heaven of His promise. Like the fit of an old shoe that no longer looks good but knows the ins and outs of our foot, we have grown accustomed to this life even with all its limitations. We even speak of death as being natural -- except for those that come too early in a person's life. Death should know its place... just as God. Neither should come lest bidden and even then give us a chance to think it over first.

But the heart and core of Advent is this prayer for the Lord to come. Period. Not after we have done all we want to do or after a long and happy life or after we have emptied out the 401k. Come, Lord Jesus.... Come quickly... Come, now. And just maybe that is Advent's main purpose -- to help us become comfortable with the prayer that so concisely sums up this season.

He comes to us in the voice of His Word to call us to faith, to speak to us the kingdom that endures forever, to absolve us of our sins... He comes to us in water to seal us to the death of Christ that we might be born anew to His life, to bear the mark of our identity as a child of God, and to give us the clothing of Christ's righteousness to wear... He comes to us in the bread and cup that is His Body and Blood to feed us heaven's food, to unite us to Him, He to us, and we to one another in the everlasting fellowship of the redeemed, and He gives us glimpse of the heavenly banquet that awaits those who trust in Him. He comes to us in these means of grace so that we are prepared for His coming, so that we welcome that coming, so that we are at peace with His coming, and so that we live in anticipation of that coming.

But in order for this all to happen, we must turn our focus from ourselves and this mortal life, to Him and the abundant life He comes to bring to us. We must learn to yield the day to His care, this life to His leading, and this mortality to His sufficient grace. Perhaps there will always be part of us in tension with that blessed phrase of prayer and song "Maranatha," but, hopefully, and more and more, we place the weight of our being into the words "Come, Lord Jesus," and less and less of it upon this world, our desires, and our selves.

One key phrase of this Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany season is the word of John the Baptist: "He must increase, I must decrease..." When we pray, "Come, Lord Jesus" we are in essence echoing the prayer of blessed John. The more we say it, the more we pray it, the more we sing it... the more at peace we are with what it says. "Come, Lord Jesus."

1 comment:

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...

Excellent, Fr. Peters. Simply excellent! Thank you.