Before supper tonight, we prayed words that I’ve probably said more than 40,000 times now:
Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest
And let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen
Whether the gifts in question were this evening’s tacos and rice, some grander meal, or any of the other blessings that were on my mind at the time, I’ve rarely prayed that prayer without being able to attach its closing petition to something concrete.
But precisely because the second one has been answered so abundantly, it’s been a rare meal when I’ve started that prayer in the fervent hope that the first petition might — literally — come true.
Sure, in some pietistic, spiritual sense, I’ve often prayed for Christ to be present in my life and the lives of others. As I wrote in an Anxious Bench post reviewing its history, that particular table grace both “underscores that Jesus, even before the Second Coming, is a very present Lord: the unseen guest at every meal” and “centers hospitality as a Christian virtue….”
But I also had to admit that
Part of me wonders if praying these words over suburban meal after suburban meal hasn’t made too safe what’s actually a political, eschatological, apocalyptic call for justice. (“Come, Lord Jesus” ought to terrify all the powers and principalities of this world, right?)
I’ve already got a comfortable, secure, predictable life. It’s more convenient if “Come, Lord Jesus” stays safely figurative, inviting nothing more than a guest appearance. (After all, guests go back where they came from and let their hosts go back to business as usual.)
But if I lived a less comfortable, less secure, less predictable life… If I lived in fear or hunger, under oppression or persecution…
If I lived in, say, Aleppo…
…and I no longer believed humanity’s boasts of “never again”…
Then I might pray “Come, Lord Jesus” differently. “Come, Lord Jesus, be our king,” perhaps. Or even “Come, Lord Jesus, be our judge.”
And Advent might feel a bit less like that quieter antidote to noisy Christmas we’ve made it in the West and a bit more like a genuine period of penitent longing. I might sing “Come, Thou long expected Jesus” with actual expectation that he would come again to set his people free.
I might go to church like we did on Sunday and hear the words of Micah (“they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth“) not just as an aging reminder of a completed prophecy, but as an as-yet-unfulfilled promise inscribed on the hearts of suffering, terror-stricken people whose only hope is that Jesus will come again and “be the one of peace.”
“Surely I am coming soon,” is the very last promise of the New Testament.
May it be so: “Come, Lord Jesus!”