The weeks before Christmas are a good time to regroup by taking a break from the 17 things you've been doing. Instead, how about having a cup of coffee with a faithful friend, and over coffee asking, as we probably all should from time to time, "Would you refresh my memory and tell me what life is all about? I don't think I remember."
What your friend will do, of course, is to give you Scripture. Thankfully, the Bible is big enough that even if you think you know it pretty well your friend can still pull something from someplace like First Thessalonians that will leave you surprised after all. That's where the Apostle Paul keeps meeting people who tell him wonderful things about the Thessalonians' faith: "You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven" (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
How's that for a framework for the Christian life? Turning from idols-and this is not just about first-century pagans, is it? It's about us. Turning from the mindless pursuit of my self-serving agenda. My pleasure is not what the world is all about. It's not about my reputation or my resumé or my relationships or my stuff. There is a true God, and I'm not him. My life now, and your life, is about serving Him.
And this too-we wait for His Son from heaven. We live in this era in active anticipation of the next era. This time is a prelude to something better. We are to live in this era somehow not absorbed in it, but absorbed in the next. When your friend reminds you of this, your face falls into your cappuccino, because you have been living like me, living as if this era is what it's all about, living as if Jesus, this Son of the living and true God, is a bit player in the supporting cast of the story of your life.
Waiting for His Son from heaven. This is what the Christian life is about-waiting for His coming, remembering the longing of the Old Testament faithful for the promised Messiah, and learning to share that longing, stirring up the dying embers of a cold heart with the little glimpses of glory that wake you from complacency and contentment with too little.
What does waiting look like? First, we are to live out of a faithful discontentment. Things are not the way they should be. That needs to settle in your gut and be formative for the way that you function. So you begin to live that way. But then you hear the Satanic whisper: The world is OK, don't overreact-relax and enjoy yourself. This is a world that has a lot to offer. The battle is to reply to that whisper: No, I am not at ease in this world. The corruption of this world is not normal. God's world is certainly filled with good things, and even now we enjoy them. But they are not what life is about.
Waiting is also working. In light of what we know, now, in this era, we work hard. Paul says, "If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me" (Philippians 1:22). What does fruitful labor look like? It depends. It may mean doing another load of laundry, or playing Candy Land again with your 4-year-old daughter. It's a relationship pursued strategically for the sake of the kingdom. It's your job in the marketplace done well to please the Lord, or a conversation carried out deliberately, alertly, bringing words of encouragement or challenge to those who need them. In this era you do the work the Lord gives you to do.
Last, waiting is praying. Our prayers have an essential, God-appointed role in His bringing about the completion of all that He will do. Does this surprise you? Life is about praying. That unproductive addendum to life, that activity of the margins, turns out to be the heart. We pray for the realization of the purposes of God. In the end it boils down to a one-word prayer, Maranatha. We wait for the Son.
-Marc Davis is a writer/educator who lives in a Philadelphia suburb