Nope! Didn’t happen. The clock didn’t strike midnight and everything cleared. No switch was thrown, no corner was turned. In fact, 2021 began much like 2020 ended. Still a pandemic raging. Still an economy suffering. Still so many people reeling. Racial tensions and powder keg protests still happening. Oh yeah, and an election still being contested . . . seriously!?! Heavy sigh!
But actually, I’m not trying to be a “Debbie Downer.” It’s just the dark backdrop against which the light shines. The very real context in which seven words spoken by Jesus pop off the page this morning.
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
(Matthew 4::17 ESV)
At hand. Drawing near. Coming nigh. Or, for me the most intriguing of my lexicon’s definitions, “joining one thing to another.”
2,000 years ago Jesus began to preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. That the way things should be, and the way God has promised they will be, is here and getting closer all the time. Joining the one thing of His heavenly rule with the other thing of our earthly reality. Come on, people . . . that’s good news!
Even with all the uncertainty that lingers with the coming of this new year, one thing we know, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
We know who reigns. We know how to abide in His presence. We know we are on mission as ambassadors. We know the enabling of His Spirit — the power of God joining with the frailty of men and women, compelling us to live in His now but not yet, earth-transcending kingdom.
Terrestrial people who are citizens of a near and ever nearing celestial land. Occupying addresses on streets of pavement yet “seeking a homeland” (Heb. 11:14) with streets of gold (Rev. 21:21). Desiring “a better country, that is, a heavenly one”, “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10, 16).
And all this is at hand. Drawing near. Coming nigh. Joining one thing to another.
And if that was true two millennia ago, what sense of anticipation should grip us as we bring in a new year?
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.
(Romans 13:11 ESV)
Nearer to us now than when we first believed. Not that we hunker down and await His soon coming, but we lean into the year to come, having under our belt another year’s experience (and what a year!) with living in the reality of the kingdom at hand. 2020 a year of experientially knowing the tangible reality of God’s promises, God’s presence, and God’s power. The kingdom of heaven more real to us today than it was when we blissfully entered 2020. If nothing else, we enter 2021 awake.
Awake to His Sovereignty. Awake to His steadfast love to us. Awake to His strength in us. Awake to the surety of a kingdom at hand — that heavenly surety joining itself to our present reality, whatever it may be.
All by His grace. Only for His glory.