Togetherness at Christmas

Christmas has come again, but when is Jesus coming again? I know that this is not a pleasant question to ask in this seasonal devotion, but this is the question that always revolves around my head during this time. When is he coming back? Is he coming back? Who knows it? Who tells it? Christians have been waiting for him for more than 2000 years. Why can’t we ask these questions? People died as they were desperately waiting for Jesus. Why isn’t he here yet? People are crying out for him every night with tears and broken hearts. Is he hearing them and aren’t those cries able to make him come any sooner?

In this season of joy, when we are supposed to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus and remember the depth of the love of God, I am a little grumpy. People sometimes want me – a scholar, a theologian, a pastor, etc. – to give them a magical answer to the question I posed above (or expect me to answer it magically), but I have nothing to tell them because I simply do not know when Jesus is coming back and how we know it. I just feel that our life of waiting for Jesus rather looks like that of Sisyphus who has to push the stone every day until he dies. We may be “pushing the stone,” or waiting for Jesus, although, in reality, there is no one to help and nowhere to stop.

Then, where is hope? This is a difficult question. It seems to me, especially at this particular historical and political time, that it is almost impossible to give a rosy and glowing, glorious and magnificent hope for Jesus’ second coming. However, I remember the moment when the disciples’ hope for a military-type messiah was broken by the death of Jesus. I remember the moment when those first Christians’ hope for Jesus’ early second-coming was eventually unachieved and ended up with leaving their stories written and passed. So, maybe such an extravagant hope is not necessary. I rather look back what people have done from those moments. They have prayed together, worked together, and practiced love together. They lived together. Every moment was challenging, but that has become a tradition and has arrived us. And, we are living it now.

Jesus will come again. I believe in it. However, we somehow need to learn how to enjoy “pushing the stone.” Albert Camus says, “The struggle itself… is enough to fill a man [and woman]’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” Camus is right about the first sentence, but I am not sure about the second one. The difference between Sisyphus and us is that we are not alone. We have been pushing the stone together from generation to generation. I think that the fun part comes from that togetherness. As we were lifting the stone together, we giggled, cried, played, and ate together. I believe that we can continue this mission (pushing the stone or waiting for Jesus), as we continue our tradition of togetherness.

-Rev. Dr. Joung Chul Lee

Rev. Dr. Joung Chul Lee is the Visiting Assistant Professor of Practical Theology, Education, and Spiritual Formation at Pacific School of Religion (PSR). He comes to PSR as a Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Fellow.

Dr. Lee is a committed educator and theologian whose passion lies in liberation through education. His specialty is philosophical and theological reflection on religious practice and its relation to formation and transformation. His research and teaching interests encompass the subjects of self, identity, faith, and religion. He specializes in theories, histories, and practices of ecumenical and interreligious education; social change and peacebuilding; educational ministry and theology; engaged and decolonized spirituality; and conversations between practical theology and contemporary philosophies. Critical pedagogy, process/poststructuralist thoughts, and interreligious living are central to his study and life.

Dr. Lee completed his Bachelor of Arts in Theology at Yonsei University in South Korea, where he is originally from. He then completed an MDiv at Emory University, a Master of Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, and his PhD at Claremont School of Theology. In his doctoral dissertation, Theopoetic Education: Interreligious Learning and Multiplicity, Dr. Lee attempts to examine current models of interreligious education and proposes an alternative that better assists participants’ embodiment of “living together” with a perspective of multiplicity. Drawing on his own experience growing up in a multireligious family, he hopes that his research will provide theological affirmation and practical support for those who are struggling with their multireligious context and their “fragmented” identities such as himself.

Dr. Lee, a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA), has served multiple churches as a preacher, educator, and administrator during the past ten years. He has been committed to multicultural, bilingual, intergenerational, and immigrant ministries. He is an alumnus of Asian Theological Summer Institute. Beginning this summer, he will serve as a board member for the Confluence Institute, which is a non-profit organization for Asian American Ministry.

Dr. Lee is married to Kyungah Lee, who is in a PhD program in English Literature at Claremont Graduate University, and they have two sons.

Academic Credentials
Doctorate of Philosophy, Claremont School of Theology
Master of Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary
Master of Divinity, Emory University
Bachelor of Arts in Theology, Yonsei University