Saturday, November 26, 2011

C.S. Lewis and Advent

C.S. Lewis borrowed the following parable from George MacDonald. And I am borrowing it from Lewis.

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a wing here, putting an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself. (Mere Christianity, book IV, chapter 9)

Now, the point Lewis was trying to make in the context was about Jesus' words, "Be ye perfect." About which Lewis goes on to say: "He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command." In other words, as the prophet says, "I will replace your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" or, as the Psalmist sings, "create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me." If we are to talk at all about the Christian life - what we say, do, how we live, etc. - we must talk of Christ who lives, says and does these things for us. Indeed, we must speak louder than all other voices around us telling us that it is our steam that gets the little train of sanctification up the hill. For it is Christ who prepares, blesses and gives us the good work that we might follow in them (Ephesians 2) and he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion on the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 1).

That is where Advent comes into the picture - or should we say, the building plans - of the parable above. In Advent God is not merely planning a remodel job or a slight renovation of this creation - or us, his creatures. He is planning an all out demolition and starting from the ground up...with wood and nail to be precise...a new house, a new creation, a new and everlasting kingdom. I suppose that makes John the Baptizer the demo man with the axe in hand, "Repent. The Kingdom of God is near." And when John gets done there's only one branch left standing on the stump...the branch of Jesse. The root. The shoot. Jesus also specializes in buying condemned buildings, tearing them down and rebuilding them. Where John destroys, Christ makes anew. The blue-print is the cross.
It's no accident that the first Sunday in Advent begins with Jesus entering Jerusalem. He goes to the temple just as he did when he was 40 days old for his presentation before Simeon. An infant horn raised up in the house of God's servant, David. Through His own body - the true temple - he will destroy all sin and raise up a new temple, a new people. Even in Advent his throne is the cross. For in his first Advent he clothes himself in the kingly garments of human flesh that we might be his own and live under him in his kingdom. And it is by means of his first advent that he prepares us - the temple of his Holy Spirit (in Baptism you are the house that Jesus built) - for his second advent by means of that same flesh and blood. O little town of of bread. House of manna. House of Christ's body broken for you. His blood shed for you. Eat and drink his Advent as we await his second coming where once again he will be our dwelling place in all generations.

"For the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are our temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day; there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus."

A blessed beginning of Advent to you all.

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