There are some good things about the possibility that Christianity and faith in God are now less the cultural norms than they once were, as recently as fifty years ago. It means that Christianity is increasingly a counter-culture. It means that faiths in God, and in God’s goodness in Christ Jesus, are counter-cultural. Christians don’t find today the cultural supports and validations that perhaps Christians did in an early time. It means that Christian faith and practice are no longer the cultural assumptions that they once might have been, so Christians today must increasingly be Christians because they mean to be.
One of the truly counter-cultural aspects of Christian faith is the anticipation that Christians have around the coming of Christ. Yes, the secularized culture of apathy toward questions about God will, of course, has similar disinterest in Christ Jesus and his coming into the world. Still further, though, still more counter-cultural, is the presence of anticipation at all.
Outside the hope of Christian of faith, the world around us promotes less an eager anticipation and more a fearful dread. People have more an anticipation that their economic hardships will continue, less than an expectation that they soon will end. People anticipate negative developments in international relationships, more than they expect them to improve. People are more pessimistic then optimistic about their government officials and about the integrity and accountability of the government as a whole. Culturally, there simply isn’t much, in a secularized skeptical world-view, that exists for people to anticipate eagerly.
In glorious contrast, Christian faith and practice involves eager anticipation of the coming of Christ Jesus, the coming of justice measured out with mercy, of consolation, of holy joy and heavenly celebration. The ancient hope of a Savior forecast and prophesied to come someday was an eager faith-based anticipation. We Christians now look for Christ to come again, ‘in power and great glory;’ and even if there is little, or absolutely nothing, around us in the wider world to confirm and validate our Christian expectation, we hope nonetheless, and we celebrate our eager anticipation in the weekly gathering of our sub-culture, our counter-culture of kindred followers of Christ.
What do you anticipate for the coming of Christ into the world? What do you anticipate for Christ’s coming in the meantime, in little ways, into your life, and into the lives of the people around you? About what are you eager with regard to Christ’s coming again? What joy do you await? What peace and consolation? What celebration and blessing? What do I anticipate? What do we, together, anticipate for the reemergence of Jesus through us into the world around us?
Counter-cultural people often look different from the dominant culture in which they live. They behave differently, even sound different from most of the folks around them who are not fellow subversives. I pray that we wear smiles on our faces when many of the people around us seem to believe there is nothing to smile about. I hope that we have a song in our hearts, maybe on our lips, when the world around us may be only grumbling or moaning with despair. I believe that we have a kind spirit and friendly presence for the most unfamiliar stranger who needs the blessings that come from swimming against the current and not going with the flow.
For this season of Advent and this Christmas season, as well, let us be Christians who mean to be Christian. Let us ask God to help us to be a subversive influence in the world for the sake of one another and those around us. Let us ask God to help us counter the wider cultural resignation to fear and sadness. Let us wear our eagerness. Let us share our anticipation. And let us celebrate Christ coming and having come into our lives and, with us, back out into the culture of the world around us.
God’s Peace. Jim +