Well, we are almost there – the eve of Christmas Eve!
I still relive the excitement, even without the grandchildren, which Christmas Day brings – invariably a piercing sense of anticipation, always to be realised on the day itself. It was this mounting expectation which John Lewis so powerfully evoked in their tear-jerking advert.
As individuals and as a community we need to be able to look forward with joyful anticipation, what the Bible calls hope. The alternative we call dread and it is a sense of dread which is settling on much of southern Europe and beyond.
When the Rev John Bertram Phillips, vicar of the Church of the Good Shepherd in East London, started his own translation of the New Testament he was in a bomb shelter. The London blitz was in full swing, not the most auspicious of times. Hardly a time of hope.
His “New Testament in Modern English” had an explosive effect on the church in the 1950’s and later. Those were the days when everyone used the King James Version: the JB Phillips translation became the first alternative. I still have my worn-out copy. And I can still remember the excitement of reading it for the first time.
JBP gave us some wonderful turns of phrase but none the more so of Romans 8:19. The Authorised Version gave us “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.” I’m not sure that even the apostle himself would have understood this high-density sentence.
But the full power of the apostle’s thought came through thanks to JBP: “The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own.”
In the same way that my granddaughters are on the tips of their toes longing for Christmas Day, so is the whole created order waiting for God’s renewal and fulfilment.
So the passage continues, again in JPB: “And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!”
Christmas is but the first step of a huge project, one which we can barely hope for and scarcely imagine. A world no longer tyrannised by change and decay, in which sorrow and sighing will flee away. A creation in which the wolf and the lamb shall feed together. The time when the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.