”But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20)
Over the past few weeks I have begun to work on my fitness. I reckon I’m not the only person who has put on a few ‘pandemic pounds’ with life indoors and weight loss is certainly a goal of mine. But I’m also looking to improve my general health and stamina, and for that I need to build up my muscles.
I like to walk, so naturally my preferred form of exercise is to go for a walk, either outside in the fresh air or indoors on a treadmill (if the winter weather makes that more attractive). That is a good thing, but it would not build up good muscle tone for my whole body. I need to do some more exercises to achieve that, and to get stretching.
Muscles grow stronger, so I’m told, through stretching. What happens when we stretch our muscles in exercise is that we actually break them, introducing small tears to the structure. When the muscle repairs itself, it is stronger. That probably explains why exercise is difficult and painful at times! (Please note that these are normal, healthy small tears, and nobody should be aiming to tear their muscles in a dramatic way!)
As I have been thinking of stretching, it seems to me that the Christian life is all about stretching. We are anchored between two points: one in the past, and one in the future. The past is the first coming of Jesus, his birth that we will celebrate at Christmas, and his death and resurrection. The future is the second coming of Christ, when he comes in power and great glory.
Yet we live in the present. We stretch between those points in past and future that we have taken hold of. And like stretching our physical muscles, this exercise can sometimes be difficult and painful. It’s hard sometimes to remember the glory of what Jesus has won for us. It’s difficult to look forward to the coming day when he returns.
But we are called to hold on to the past and the future, and stretch in the present. As we stretch, so our spiritual muscles heal, restore and rebuild, and they get stronger. As we go through this season of advent, we are deliberating calling to mind the first coming of Jesus in the past, and his future second coming in glory. Advent is a stretching time, where our muscles are taut and our minds are taught. Advent is not always easy, but it makes us stronger, healthier and more able to persevere.