By Caleb+ Miller, pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church
We’re asked two of our clergy to share books they’d recommend for the Advent season. Below is the second installment of this two-part series.
In the past year, I have read and enjoyed two books that have much to offer us, one relatively new, the other long-established. The first is Remaking a Broken World by Christopher Ash. A Bible overview telling the story of God and his creation though the twin themes of scattering and gathering, it is focused on Jesus and the Church Jesus builds.
A pastor, Ash writes with a deep and abiding love for God’s people in Jesus, the Church: “I want to convince us that the local church is at the heart of the Bible story, that it is close to the heart of the purposes of God, and that it is how a broken world will be remade.” In this current cultural mood, one in which the Church is ignored and in which its importance is oftentimes marginalized, Ash’s words are both encouraging and challenging.
As a result of sin, God scatters people in his judgment; in his kindness and grace, God works to gather a people, first in Israel, then ultimately in Jesus as his cross work, glorious resurrection and ascension to power result in the gathering of a people: the Church. The Church, in the power of the Holy Spirit and given a mission from Jesus, becomes “a cure actively replacing scattering with gathering.” Formed out of the scattered and sinful people, formed in the grace of God found only in Jesus, formed through the Holy Spirit, the Church is both the people of God in the present and points forward to what is to come as it works to continue the gathering work of God.
An especially appropriate Advent theme, “The New Creation: Gathered Forever,” runs through the book as it builds to the end of history ordained by God in Jesus. As we celebrate Advent, we consider the two Advents of Jesus: his first Advent in history and his second Advent in the future. In his second Advent, Jesus will consummate the gathering work of God as his people throughout time and history rest in his glory forever. Ash does especially well to remind us that this intended end of history is not improvisation; rather it is the eternal plan of God’s work to gather his people in Jesus, through the Holy Spirit.
The second book I’d like to recommend is Lesslie Newbigin’s The Household of God: Lectures on the Nature of the Church. Originally given as a series of lectures in 1952, The Household of God proves to be a prophetic word for the Church. Anticipating the dissolution of Christendom, the rise of expressive individualism and writing from within a pluralistic culture, Newbigin argues for a Church that is “three streams” in nature. Within his argument, a Christian participates in Christ through “hearing and believing the Gospel,” “sacramental participation in the life of the historically continuous Church” and “receiving and abiding in the Holy Spirit.” The Church then is the location for this biblically rooted, sacramentally celebrated and charismatically applied union with Christ—the crucified, risen, ascended and returning Christ. This union is our new reality.
As we await the second Advent of our Lord, we remember the mission he has given us to do in the present: to make disciples. Serving as witnesses to Christ, the Church is given the “apostolic mission of witness to the world.” Newbigin was a deep thinker who wrote from a very different culture and perspective as a missionary. In reading his works, I have found his words to be timely and appropriate, challenging and encouraging. In this Christ-centered work, Newbigin calls the Household of God to be in, about and for Jesus, the King who is coming. As we await the return of the King, we are privileged to be called to participate in God’s mission to gather the scattered, to be a people in place, awaiting the eternal gathering.
As we celebrate the first Advent of Christ and look forward to his second, may we be a gathered people, celebrating his work through His Word, sacrament and the abiding Holy Spirit.
Caleb+ Miller serves as pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin, Florida. Caleb grew up in Kansas, part of a multi-generational farming family. He is passionate about preaching and teaching the Scriptures and engaging culture with the gospel. He and his wife, Anna, enjoy reading and playing with their two children.