We come again to this strange festival which really looks ahead to an event which has not yet happened – the appearing of Christ and the judgment of the world on that last day. It is odd that we are celebrating/observing something that has not yet happened. But it doubly odd that we are celebrating something that terrifies the world. Our world is fixated right now on its demise. (Just look to all the dystopian/end of the world movies which we make.) We are celebrating it?
We can do that because the Gospel and the Gospel alone gives us reason to hope on the day of Judgment. Paul tells us that Jesus saves us from the wrath of God (I Thess 1:10). Jesus and Paul compare the end of the world to birth pangs. It is dangerous and painful, but it is also the moment which new life comes into the world. Just as a mother does not only sense pain and danger in her labor, but also an eager expectation of holding that newborn in her arms, we long for the day of our Lord.
At the end of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul recites a little prayer which was apparently known to the Christians in Corinth. He wrote it in Aramaic which suggests that this was something which connected this gentile community of Christians to the very first, Aramaic speaking Christians of the Holy Land. It was simply “Maranatha” (I Corinthians 16:22). It means “Come Lord!” God’s people have been longing for the end of all the suffering, the end of all the villainous schemes of Satan, the end of death and sin for a very long time. This Sunday we express our longing as well. Come Lord Jesus!