Summary: How Do YOU Punctuate Your Advent? 1) “The Lord is coming?” 2) “The Lord is coming.” 3) “The Lord is coming!”
The first year I tutored at Luther Prep School in Wisconsin I taught Grade 10 English. I would, of course, have preferred teaching religion or phys-ed but I’m thankful for the opportunity to have taught English grammar. I came to appreciate the importance of proper punctuation. Take a look at the following sentences for example. The only thing that is distinct about them is a single comma yet their meaning is like chalk and cheese: as different as can be.
“Don’t stop.” / “Don’t, stop.”
In the first sentence you’re asking someone to continue doing whatever they are doing while in the second sentence you’re asking that person to stop what they are doing. The comma makes all the difference in the world. Still not impressed that proper punctuation is a big deal? Tell that to Rogers Communications Inc. In 2007 they were forced to spend an extra $2.13 million to use utility poles in the Maritimes after the placement of a comma in a contract allowed an increase in rates to use those poles (theglobeandmail.com).
Last Sunday we entered into the Advent season. It’s a season of waiting for the Lord’s coming. What’s the proper way to punctuate the Advent message? Some, skeptics, punctuate it like this: “The Lord is coming?” The Bible, however, uses different punctuation. Earlier you heard the Apostle Peter state with finality: “The Lord is coming.” When a believer hears again that certain promise he can but respond with the shout: “The Lord is coming!”
“The Lord is coming?” Scoffers were already asking that question thirty-five years after Jesus’ ascension and his promise to return. No doubt that question has intensified in the minds of many as the last two thousand years have passed without a glimpse of Jesus. Maybe we too wonder if Jesus has forgotten about us here. Peter, however, assures us that we can get rid of the question mark and replace it with a period: “Jesus is coming.” Peter made that declaration when he wrote: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8, 9).
When you go out to eat at a fancy restaurant you’re expectation of how quickly the food will be served is different than your expectation at McDonald’s. If your food comes 15 seconds after ordering at a fancy restaurant, as it better at McDonald’s, you would be miffed. There’s no way your expensive meal could be anything but a pre-packaged dinner the chef quickly heated up after receiving your order. No. At a place like that you don’t mind waiting for your food.
In the same way we won’t mind waiting a bit longer for the Lord’s return when we keep in mind what he’s up to. Jesus is not like some minimum-wage-earning fast-food restaurant server who could care less about you and so pokes along as he gathers your fries and burger, stopping here and there to chat with other employees. Jesus is “slow” in coming back, explains Peter, because he is patient. He’s like the father who asked his son to mow the lawn before he gets home from work. Although he usually rushes home after work, this father knows that his son probably hasn’t gotten to the mowing yet so he takes his time. He stops at the bookstore. He grabs a coffee and reads the paper. What he’s doing is buying time for his son to complete the task so that no words of chastisement will have to be spoken when he arrives home. The father’s “tardiness” is a blessing for the son.
In the same way Jesus is “slow” in making his reappearance because he doesn’t want anyone to have to suffer his wrath over their unbelief. Notice how Peter said that God is patient with you (2 Peter 3:9). Can you think of a time in your life when you were glad that Jesus didn’t return because if he had, you would have been lost eternally? Thank God for his patience! Thank him for waiting until the Holy Spirit worked repentance and faith in your heart.
But now that we believe in Jesus why doesn’t he return already? I’ve often had that thought but it’s a selfish one. It’s like being thankful that the last bus home from downtown waited even though I was late for it, but then getting angry when the bus driver insists on waiting a couple more minutes for other stragglers. In the same way when we get upset that God is taking so long in coming we show that we don’t care what happens to others as long as we make it to heaven.