Real presence — God really present — that is the good news that Christians have to proclaim to the world. If we cannot deliver that message, that God is present and God saves, then we have nothing to say, nothing to do. As the Apostle says, we are the most hopeless of people.
The unbelieving world does not believe or acknowledge the real presence. Sadly, many Christians and perhaps even churches barely give lip service. The concept is embedded in Scripture and the confessions, but when words and behavior are observed and assessed, someone from the outside looking in to the company of Christ’s followers called the church, might have grave doubts.
To look at the matter from a purely human point of view, if someone is present in a room in which conversation is taking place, the presence of that person makes a difference; while the person may be ignored — even completely — the person’s presence cannot be ignored. The person is visible and present and, therefore, having some kind of impact on what’s going on.
Do we really believe that God is really present in the space around us, within us, beyond us — all the time?
If we believe that, then it will definitely shape the words we speak and the actions we take. If the God who has condescended to become one with us in all of our fallenness is truly present, talking, walking, sitting, encouraging, admonishing, listening, speaking, then we must move to accept or to reject him.
The real presence, then, calls for a fundamental decision about one’s life and place in the world: either God is truly present and accepted as Lord and Savior by faith, or God is not present. If not truly present then God is an idea, God is a wish, God is a mirage, perhaps a projection of our own vain hopes.
Those who believe that the triune God is truly present in all of life, in every space, in every time, are those who both fear and love the God who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.
The sheer magnitude of the act of divine intervention inspires, in response, a love that is passionate and tenacious on our part. The fact that in God we are dealing with the source and ruler of all that is can only inspire fear and awe.
The question was asked: Do we really believe God to be truly present with us? A preliminary answer for many of us and for our church and others like it — thoroughly modern, acculturated, well-to-do Western churches — the answer must be no, at least much of the time.
Where is the awe? Where is the passionate commitment to witness by word and deed that fills our whole life’s agenda? Where are the fruits of that kind of love responding to God’s love for us? If the writer of the Apocalypse was describing accurately the churches of his day at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, those of us living today should go back and reread those capsule descriptions to see where we fit.
In many places the fires of faith have been banked, hope has been replaced with acquiesence in the way things are, love is mostly absent.
Do we believe that the triune God is really present — that he has come, that he is coming again in power? That is the question which we must ask in the season of Advent leading to Christmas, the celebration of the birthday of God’s only begotten Son whose name Jesus means: “God saves.”
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