Please Rise!

By Not Known

Whenever a Master of Ceremony (MC) calls the seated guests to rise, we imagine the playing of the fanfare and expect the arrival of some important persons with pomp and pageantry. But what if the dust settles and no one turns up after repeated calls… two explanations are possible: (1) the MC is mistaken; or (2) the Guest-of-Honour is late. Whichever the reason, the best mitigation is that the Guest arrives, late then never.

In Isaiah 35:4, the prophet announced that God would come with vengeance and divine retribution to save his people. Given the turmoil of living under tyrannous political powers, Israel was exhilarated at such a prospect for respite. Isaiah also prophesized that the suffering Messiah would bring salvation when he comes (Isa 52:13 – 53:12). Other prophets before and after Isaiah echoed similar good news (cf. Gen 17; 2 Sa 7; Jer 31:31-33; Jer 23:5-6; Mi 5:2; Joel 2:28; Mal 4:5-6; etc.). With every call in the future tense, the people of God envisaged with heightened expectation. But when exactly will that ‘future’ promise be turned into a ‘present’ reality?

Isaiah served around the 7th Century B.C. So Israel waited a long time for the fulfilment of that promise. With every passing century without the Messiah in sight, God’s people became tempted to conclude that the prophets were mistaken, or that the Messiah would be late, or worst that he would never turn up! When faith in the faithfulness of God failed, God’s people fell away into all sorts of idolatry and godlessness. Similarly, when “Christians” no longer look with expectant hearts to Christ, we will either turn to some other gods, or will believe in no god at all. When hope in Christ is given up, one risks swinging from the centre of hope to the fringes of idolatry or ‘I’-centeredness.

The first Christmas came and went two thousand years ago. We continue to sing the hymn “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” every Advent. Is it in the ‘past’ tense that we now sing, or is it in the ‘perfect’ and ‘future’ tenses that we ought also to sing. I suggest that we do all.

Let us sing in the ‘past’, ‘perfect’ and ‘future’ tense because the Birth of Jesus Christ means that we who repent of our sins and trust in him are saved through our regeneration, are being saved through our sanctification, and will be saved through our consummation. He is our Saviour and Lord of yesterday, today and tomorrow. To sing “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” is to acknowledge the living relationship and active fellowship that we have with God in Christ and the Spirit everyday of our lives.

The prophets were not mistaken; the God-of-Honour is not late; Christ came at the appointed time and will come again at the other appointed time. Let’s live from Christmas to Christmas in view of that final call by the heavenly angels, “Please rise!” (Rev 4:8-9; 22:20b).


Benson Goh