by Peter White
On November 29, the Regeneration worship community of First United Methodist Church kicked off the season of Advent by telling God’s great story in song and a dramatic reading. From now until early January—through the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany—we’ll be posting that reading in seven sections.
Will there ever be a king on a throne, full of power with a sword in his fist?
Without a king, human pride and stubborn rebellion are still tough habits to break. Without a king, the people do as they please. There are as many opinions of what’s right and wrong as there are people. Without a king, they’re vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy. There is no unity. They need a leader to inspire them. They need a leader who will charge the black gates of the enemy. They need a leader who can heal the world, and make it thrive and flourish again.
A Promised Land is great, but it’s dangerous when it’s also a coveted land that contains the most profitable trade routes desired by the biggest bullies of the world—namely Philistines, Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians, just to name the biggest and baddest ones.
Will there ever be a king that will defeat these enemies? A king to hold back the darkness and put it in its place? Will there ever be a king that inspires peace in the land?
“Give us a king!” the people cried out to God. And God gave the people Saul—a lesson in “be careful what you wish for.” But there was a young shepherd named David. No burning bush this time, but a shepherd just the same. David was a fierce warrior who fought back the enemy. David was a charismatic leader who inspired the people. As a wise king, David united the people and the nation flourished. He was a great man. He was larger than life, but he was just a man. And every man dies.
Even though God had provided Torah, the way to live, Israel could not keep it. Like a pair of shoes that doesn’t quite fit, so you don’t wear them, and then you forget you have them. Human pride and stubborn rebellion are still really tough habits to break. The deities of the other nations were too enticing, too tempting. God was faithful. Israel was not. Darkness crept in. Affluence. Oppression. Go-through-the-motions religion. Broken Image-Bearers break things.
Some prophets spoke. Some prophets screamed. Some prophets hoped. They hoped that one day a king would come again. A fierce king to conquer the enemy. A charismatic king to inspire the nation. A wise king to prosper the nation.
In time the nation was oppressed, broken, and scattered. The walls of the city leveled. The holy temple burned to the ground. People starved and massacred. A band of survivors was taken into exile to Babylon.
Now, imagine the darkness before creation. Imagine the darkness of Egyptian slavery. And now imagine the darkness of exile in Babylon.
In time a benevolent king allowed the exiles to return to their Promised Land. And they rebuilt the walls. And they rebuilt the temple. But there was no king. They were an occupied territory of a pagan empire.
And God was silent. For 400 long years. There was no king like David. There was no prophet like Elijah. But there was Alexander the Great who marched with his Greek armies. And there was Julius Caesar who marched with his Roman armies. And Israel lived as exiles in their own home. Their own Promised Land. Occupied by cruel oppressors named Rome. But Rome was just a name. Just a another brief representation—and there have been so many in human history—of the deeper evil, the more sinister cruelty, the darkness called Sin and Death.
But remember: It is in the darkest places that God speaks. God speaks the longing of all creation.
Let. There. Be. Light.
Take a moment to think about the dark places in your life and let God speak to you. Use this song as your background music.
Join us at First Methodist Tulsa during the Advent season, listen to Dr. Wade Paschal’s Advent sermons here and learn more about worship opportunities during December.
Peter White is both a Tulsa native and transplant, having moved away for 9 years and returning 6 years ago. He probably spends too much money supporting the downtown food economy. When not eating within the IDL with his wife, he can be found watching Netflix, whining about the Seattle Mariners’ pitiful offense, reading a theology book, keeping his toddlers from stealing each others’ goldfish crackers, or being a minister of First Methodist. He can be followed on Twitter @thatpeterwhite.