Our reading of the Gospel of John now brings us to a day about 33 years away from the birth experience with Mary and Joseph in the barn of Bethlehem. Since that initial day, Jesus lived faithfully with his family, walked the roads of Galilee, nurtured his disciples, ate with sinners, and challenged the teachings of the day. And now he sits with his disciples as he begins to say goodbye. His farewell includes the powerful promise of the Holy Spirit who will lead them into the future. He even uses the language of the birth family when he says that he will not leave them as orphans but he himself will come to them. Then in verse 28 he makes a remarkable statement; “I am going away and I am coming back to you.” How does someone go away and come back at the same time? Many read this as a dual reference to future events. First, there is the return that Jesus is already anticipating in the resurrection. Second, there is a thinly veiled reference to yet another return that we simply think about as the Second Advent or the Second Coming of the Lord. As a result, our current spirit of Advent waiting is also focused on two events. First, we wait in anticipation for a reminder (a replay if you will) of the first Bethlehem birth. We use the experience to renew our faith as we remember what God accomplished by sending his Son into the world as the Messiah. But then we remember that the fullness of time (the perfection of the spiritual time line) has not yet been completed. There is more to consider than just this day, this celebration, this Christmas, this Advent. There is more. There is yet another arrival that causes us to wait with a spirit of hope. Theologians like to talk about this current time as the almost- but-not-yet. There is more to come! Our task is to engage the day with the full faith of a disciple. That means that we live within a mystery that suggests that Jesus was physically present in the past, that Jesus is with us right now, and that he will return one day to claim the church as his bride. So our Advent waiting is an almost-but-not-quite-yet kind of waiting. In our home, Sue might ask Ana if she is ready for the day. Ana often responds ‘not yet quite”. In Ana-speak that means it is about to happen but the time is not yet ready. Advent is a not yet quite mysterious experience.
15 ‘If you love me, you will keep* my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,* to be with you for ever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in* you. 18 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’ 22Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’ 23Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. 25 ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate,* the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. 30I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.