Advent: derived from the Latin word “Adventus”, meaning “coming.”
This past Sunday marked the beginning of the season of Advent, the four-weeks leading up to the birth of Jesus. The purpose of this season is to prepare us for Jesus’ coming. We prepare our hearts to honor his birth and we renew our hope that he will come again to bring the fullness of his Kingdom.
For the Israelites, waiting for the coming Messiah was woven deeply into the fabric of their everyday lives. Throughout the Psalms and the Old Testament prophets, God promised time and again that he would send a Messiah, a King who would deliver his people and bring about his Kingdom of forgiveness, healing, restoration and hope. Between the last Old Testament prophet Malachi and Jesus’ birth, more than 400 years of silence transpired. Yet the Jewish people continued to hope and wait.
Advent signifies the end of the 400 years of silence and the beginning of God’s Kingdom on Earth. Picture early morning darkness; it seems as if the sun will never rise. Yet slowly, glimmers of sunlight peek over the horizon. Like the long-awaited sunrise, Jesus’ birth brought light in the midst of darkness- God’s Kingdom come. In Jesus’ life, the sick were healed, sins were forgiven, and relationships were restored. And in his death and resurrection, death was defeated for good and new life was made possible.
Today, we live in God’s “now and not-yet” Kingdom. As followers of Jesus, we can receive forgiveness, healing, and renewal now. Yet our world is still enveloped by sin and suffering. Waiting for the fullness of God’s Kingdom is a difficult place to live in.
Read the Psalm below and reflect on what it’s like for you to wait.
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
2 Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
8 He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.
We live in a culture where we rarely have to wait for anything. We can stream almost any TV show or movie immediately. Information is just a quick Google search away. One-click shopping on Amazon gives us access to almost anything we want, instantly.
The state of waiting inevitably produces anxiety, frustration, impatience, and a variety of other vices. Yet, during Advent, God invites us to wait, to press into the uncertainty, and to trust that he will follow through on his promise that he will one day come again and make all things right and whole.
Where are you waiting on God to show up? In a hopeless financial situation? In the middle of family drama or broken relationships? In an unjust situation that is out of your control?
Talk to God openly and honestly about what it’s like for you to wait. Ask him to help you to wait with hope and trust during this Advent season.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I’m going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself. And that fact that I think I am following your will does not mean I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in everything I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire and I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
-Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude