Yea, Amen! Let all adore Thee
High on Thine eternal throne;
Saviour take the power and the glory,
Claim the Kingdom for thine own;
O Come quickly! O come quickly! O come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down.
John Cennick’s and Charles Wesley’s stirring words of longing for the rule of God echo the vision of Revelation, ‘Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him…’ (Revelation 1.7) Here is an unashamedly sumptuous declaration; a hymn speaks of the time when Christ shall rule supreme in power and glory, when the end comes. A new Kingdom, its sentient life, the new order, is the breath of God’s piercing compassion… ‘And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things have passed away.’ (Revelation 21.4)
St John the Divine was not imagining on his own, Daniel (7.13), Matthew (24.30), Mark (13.26), Luke (21.27), they all envision the end as also the beginning. They see the ‘Son of Man’ ushering, without warning or compromise, the transforming power of God, changing, shifting, refining, annihilating in its crushing defeat the last enemy of light, ‘Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.’
It is hard at the beginning of the liturgical year not to be drawn eagerly into dreaming, dreaming that the suffering of this world may indeed come to an abrupt and absolute end… the obscene inequalities that condemn some to excess and others to destitution; children used as commodities for work or toys for pleasure; profane atrocities committed in the name of God; corruption in the political systems that govern and misshape communities; ignorance that leads to violence; the systematic pillage of the world’s natural life and resources; hatred for the stranger and sojourner, indifference…
As Christmas approaches it is also disconcertingly tempting to reach out for the proverbial wet blanket and despoil all things Christmas in deep negative waters… The mystifying anomaly of Christmas: in the face of persistent human suffering, celebration for the birth of the Saviour, child destined to die man, ignominiously on the cross, to proffer eternal life, or, festival of greed and self-indulgent self-indulgence?
Forgive me, I get carried away! It seems impossible not to feel the heavy weight of what is and to long, long passionately for what is to be, just as it is impossible not to confront my own inability to make change happen, in me, let alone in the rest of the world. I believe Christmas is a calling to abrupt and absolute change. We will of course celebrate and give thanks; we will give and receive presents and celebrate with family and friends and rejoice…
I keep hearing, however, the warning cry of the underground ‘Mind the gap, mind the gap’ and in it, in that gap, the hungry, the homeless, the suffering. I am not always there but I see the Saviour Christ healing the broken hearted and binding up their wounds…