“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-8).
This is a prophetic statement by Isaiah concerning the establishment of Christ’s Kingdom reign. Advent places us squarely in the middle of this reality…for the birth of Christ marked the beginning of the coming of the kingdom of God.
Most scholars seem to agree that more than any other theme, Jesus taught the present availability of the reign or kingdom of God. (Matt. 3:2; 4:7) Over and over throughout the gospels we read of Jesus saying, ”The Kingdom of God is like…” He dared to say that you can live this full reality right now. We often think of the kingdom of God in a strictly future tense or only as a destination or place: heaven. But this isn’t just what Jesus meant when He spoke about the Kingdom of God. For sure Jesus meant about eternal life with God but He was not just talking about some place where we will go after we die. He was also talking about abundant life right here and right now!
In Jesus’ birth, the kingdom has broken into human history in a new and significant way. Yet the kingdom has not yet arrived in all its fullness, and won’t be fully realized until Jesus returns. As theologians sometimes put it, the kingdom is both already and not yet. Or to paraphrase N. T. Wright, it’s as if God has taken a page from the end of history and put it in the middle of the story. The glorious future that awaits us has begun now, and Jesus invites us to participate in the present reality of his kingdom and redemptive purposes.
So Advent reminds us that we live between these two events, the first and second Advent of Christ. We live between the times, in the already and not yet of God’s kingdom.
The word for living in this way, living in the in-between with trust and surrender, is called faith. And the question we must answer is, “Is the kingdom of God a present reality in our lives?” Is our understanding of living under God’s kingly rule reflected in the way we live?
One of the best descriptions of the essence of this kingdom is contained in one of our most familiar prayers: “Your kingdom come……Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). It seems that where God’s will is done with perfect submission his kingdom is revealed. This is how God invites us to participate with him in bringing about his healing and redemptive purposes here on earth.
How does that happen in our lives? Jesus gave us a clue in Matt. 18:2-4: “He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Humility, forgiveness, simplicity and trust…qualities of children are the necessary qualities that allow us to live in perfect submission to God’s ways and purposes in our lives and bring about his kingdom on earth.
So what does such a kingdom actually look like in the dailyness of our lives? That’s for tomorrow.