It may be hard to believe, but Advent is just a month away! But at this moment I am staring at beautiful red leaves on the trees out my office window. I am struck by this intersection of seasons when we awake to frost-covered lawns and cars, but we are warmed by the sun’s warmth in the afternoon. It reminds me of a scholarly phrase that I love: the “already, not yet”.
This phrase points to the fact that Jesus has already come in the flesh, modeled how to pursue the Kingdom of God, sacrificed his life for our forgiveness, been buried and then raised from the dead, and returned to the Father. This is the “already”. But we are still awaiting the full realization of God’s Kingdom come and will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We are still waiting to experience the resurrection in our own lives fully and completely. This is the “not yet”.
In fact, our faith is full of these sorts of paradoxes. Advent is one of them! We know what Christmas Day represents, but we still have this season of waiting and expectation. We know the song that was sung by angels to the shepherds. We know the peace that was born into our world in that lowly place. We know the stifled laughter that comes when an elementary-aged girl holds the baby-doll-Jesus by the leg in the Christmas pageant. We even know the gifts that come from foreign star-gazers a couple of years later. We know the story, and yet we choose to wait for it again. Advent is an “already, not yet” season.
So as I sit here writing this on a beautiful October afternoon I am reminded of the already, not yet of my faith. Winter is already breaking in every morning with frost-covered fields, but the red leaves and sunshine push back, saying “not yet”! And we wait for what is to come, while working in the midst of where we are.
God’s Kingdom longs to break into our lives like the frost in the morning. We see signs of God’s Kingdom and we wait for it expectantly. But this is where it’s different from the weather: you get a say in it! You can’t tell the seasons to “come now” or “stay away”, but you can beckon the Kingdom to come. And more than beckoning, you can be the embodiment of the Kingdom of God today. Whenever we choose to let Jesus reign in our lives we are embodying the Kingdom of God. When you spend time strengthening your relationship with the Father the Kingdom of God is realized! When we gather with one another to pray and fellowship and share a meal and lift our voices in song the Kingdom of God is present! And when we serve the last, the lost, and the least in our world, God’s Kingdom is made visible!
When we follow Jesus in these ways we embrace the “already, not yet” that is the Kingdom of God. And, like the frost, we can see glimpses of what is already breaking into our lives and our world, but is not yet fully realized.