Advent Hope and Apocalyptic Denial

Last night I was reading 2 very different books. One a slim theological booklet and the other a truly trashy novel… actually novel grants it a dignity it doesn’t deserve.

But in one of those strange coincidences both referred to our tendency when faced with the unpalatable to engage in denial.

The first was referring to the church’s decline in the west in terms of numbers and social/political relevance; the second reflecting on the effect of human population on the planetary ecosystem.

But later I reflected on the difference between denial and hope.

With the former issue there are those who hope and pray for revival, or even, more radically, the second coming of Christ.

With the latter many simply assume that “science”, the deus ex-machina of the modern age will save the day (as opposed to simply being a cataloguer of, or even a contributor to the problem that it currently is).

But are these “hopes” not simply signs of denial?

Elizabeth Kubler Ross famously identified denial as one of the “stages” of grief in the face of loss, and more recently her thinking has been applied more widely to our attitude to change of any sort. And actually I believe that Christian hope, is not “cross my heart and hope not to die” but that “sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life” that we often speak of in the funeral service.

It holds within it a recognition of the reality of change, mortality and death… And it is into the recognition of that, rather than its denial, that hope springs, eternal.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,   and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,    for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.

Psalm 130 (NIVUK)

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About virtualmethodist

Methodist minister based in the Agape Centre South Belfast, with a wife Sally & 2 sons, Owain & Ciaran. Main interests: theatre, books, community development, reconciliation and winding people up.
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