By Jennifer Johnson
As you read this it’s March, but I’m writing it in December. The lead times for print mean I’m usually penning reflections for an issue months before it goes to press, so although you are currently preoccupied with final preparations for Easter, I am in the middle of Advent.
I have a love/hate relationship with this part of the church calendar. Christmas is my favorite time of year, but that’s because most of us jump right to the celebrating. Music, lights, special events, too much special food—we go right from Thanksgiving to Emmanuel.
But Advent reminds us that good things take time. God’s chosen people waited centuries for Jesus to arrive, and at Advent we are encouraged to join them in darkness with our eyes peeled for light, to join them in slavery with hearts yearning for freedom. Advent is when we identify with Abraham longing for a son, the Israelites dreaming of entering the promised land, the exiles aching to return to it.
It is a holy time, and a hard time, because waiting is some of the hardest work there is.
I thought about all this as I interviewed my friend Josh Howard about IGNITE and considered his calculations that, if we all reached one person for Jesus every six months, and then they did, and then they did too, billions of people could hear the good news in just a few years. (See related article.) If you believe that Jesus has not returned yet because, as 2 Peter 3:9 says, he is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance,” this means we can potentially speed things up by getting more serious about evangelism.
I’m not sure our impact on God’s timing is quite so cause and effect, but I do believe it’s true that one reason Jesus hasn’t yet returned is because so many millions of people around the world, including entire people groups, have yet to even hear his name. And if waiting for Jesus the first time was difficult, how much harder is it to wait for visit number two, when Jesus will remake the heavens and the earth and do away with ISIS and school shootings and police profiling and metastasizing cancer, not to mention all of the more mundane disappointments and discouragements that can fill our days?
So in addition to that whole obedience-to-the-Great-Commission thing, I’m excited about Josh’s IGNITE program because perhaps it means the “second Advent” will be a day or a month or a decade sooner. There was nothing the Jewish people could do to speed up God’s timeline with infant Jesus, but there may be a way we can hasten the return of King Jesus. Why would we wait another day to get started?