As I watched,
thrones were set in place,
and an Ancient One took his throne,
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames,
and its wheels were burning fire.
A stream of fire issued
and flowed out from his presence.
A thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him.
The court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.
As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a human being
coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One
and was presented before him.
To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
that shall never be destroyed.
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Just one of the apocalyptic visions of Daniel. Perhaps one of the most striking. Daniel bears witness to the majesty of the holy, and in this vision is given a glimpse behind the curtain of the presence of the ancient of days. This is the moment: judgment. It is both the end and the beginning. What has happened before is now subject to the scrutiny of the one who was, and is, and is to come. It's a moment we all dread in no uncertain terms...and one that we also spend most of our mortal lives pondering. What if this is THAT moment? Are we ready? If it's NOT that moment, then how much longer? If that moment is no where near, then what will keep this cart on the rails?
|William Blake's "The Ancient One"|
It begs one of the big questions: Do we(I) measure up?
If that doesn't give you pause, then go back up there and read the passage again. Sit with it. Ponder just how profoundly we fall short of the ideals set forward in scripture, our tradition and even those within a simple, moral, humanist context. As Blake envisioned above, the compass of the almighty has our measure. We have an account to make to the Creator, and there is little argument we can forge on our own part that we deserve mercy, much less forgiveness but by God's grace.
That is the shadow side of faith, knowing that the "ephemera of us" cannot begin to posit our own justification but for the munificent love of a forgiving and loving God who knows us and yet loves us anyway. We can continue to mess things up, and seem to be able to find new and creative ways to do just that...and yet....and yet God keeps coming. God keeps arriving. God keeps showing up and loving us. Particularly, God is present in the life of Jesus. From eternity, the Ancient One becomes a human being and joins us. We are not restricted to an apocalyptic vision of Eternity drawing near. In front of us, behold...a person who bears the onus of the absolute and chooses to welcome us into new life, a new creation.
As we approach the end of the liturgical year, the traditional feast of Christ the King and the beginning of the season of Advent, it is natural to reflect on the way God loves us into being, forgives us though we don't deserve it; and beckons to us from eternity to have hope that one day we will be one, beloved and welcome in Christ before the throne of grace. The challenge is to do that in a world that feels very, very broken and shattered. Violence in our cities, civil wars, insurgencies and environmental catastrophes are overwhelming and compound the agitation we feel as we enter into the unsettled and unsettling season of Advent.
So, pause and give honor to a God who loved us. Give praise to a God who chooses not to be far off, but to draw near. Give thanks to a God who in that love emptied eternity into a moment with the birth of Jesus. Rejoice, and with awed wonder let us open our hearts and selves up for His advent.