Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I am reminded of a funny story about three boys, an old man and a cemetery. Its message is relevant to the Advent season.
On the outskirts of a small town was a large cemetery, surrounded by a tall wrought iron fence. Just inside stood a large pecan tree. One evening, two boys entered the cemetery with buckets in hand. They sat down beneath the tree and began dividing up the pecans that had fallen to the ground. “One for you and one for me” they could be heard proclaiming loudly as they took turns dropping pecans into their buckets.
On the way in they had seen many pecans scattered around the cemetery, all the way to the fence line. So after collecting pecans near the tree they started moving out to collect those that had fallen in the direction of the fence. Soon another boy came riding by on his bicycle. As he passed, he heard voices and stopped to listen. He heard being repeated over and over: “One for you and one for me.” He thought he knew the meaning and jumped back on his bike and rode off.
Soon he encountered an old man hobbling along with his cane and stopped to tell him what he had overheard in the cemetery. “Come quick,” he said, “you won’t believe what I just heard! Satan and the Lord are down at the cemetery dividing up souls!!” The man replied, “Beat it kid. Can’t you see that it’s hard for me to walk?”
But the boy insisted and the old man hobbled over to the cemetery with the boy. Together they heard the same thing: “One for you and one for me – one for you and one for me.” The old man whispered to the boy, “You’ve been telling me the truth. Let’s see if we can see the Lord!” Shaking with fear, they peered through the fence but were not able to see where the voices were coming from. As they gripped the wrought iron bars of the fence trying to pull themselves up for a better look, they heard the voices again: “One for you and one for me; and that’s all. Now let’s go get those nuts by the fence and we’ll be done.”
As the story goes, the old man with the cane made it back into town five minutes ahead of the boy on the bike!
That’s a funny story, but it’s based on a faulty premise. Contrary to popular opinion, Satan and Jesus are not equals battling away to see which souls on earth they can claim as their own. Satan is a vanquished foe, even if God allows him some continuing activity in a world over which Jesus is supreme Lord. Satan’s present activity suits God’s purpose in the time between Jesus’ bodily ascension to heaven and his future return to earth in glory. In between, Jesus is present in our world through the Holy Spirit, declaring his Lordship and calling people to yield in faith and joy to his present kingdom rule on earth and in heaven.
During Advent, we celebrate our Lord’s “comings” – the glorious truth that he has come, he will come, and he is coming. May we, the body of Christ, together discern what he is now doing in our midst and through the Holy Spirit join in!
Advent greetings from my family to yours,