Advent – Waiting In Hope

Conversations about Christmas decorations start early in October at our house. We wait until Halloween is over before we start decorating, but if we wait until after Thanksgiving, it’s too late. We have to plan around trips, parties, meetings and other commitments. We’ve actually scaled back over the years, but it is still a multi-day effort; and if we don’t get started early enough, it will not get done before the trips, parties, meetings and other commitments. I pulled the first box out of the basement three weeks before Thanksgiving. By the time you read this, Brenda will have put the last ornament in place. The house will be ready for Christmas.
As a kid, when our family had fresh-cut Christmas trees, my dad would only allow the tree to be in the house for two weeks. When we changed to artificial trees, we would decorate on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. And we never started Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving!
Most often, in the church, we think of the season of Advent as a time of getting ready for Christmas; not just as a time to decorate, but as a time to prepare our hearts for the great celebration of God’s love in Jesus. Without spiritual preparation, our celebration can end up shallow and materialistic.
But Advent is intended to be more than getting ready for Christmas. Advent emphasizes the “already, but not yet” nature of our faith. Advent is intended to remind us that even though the Messiah has come, the Kingdom of God is not fully revealed. Even though Jesus is the Prince of Peace, we still wait for the fullness of God’s peace upon the earth. A common theme of Advent is that Christ will one day return in final victory, and the “peaceable kingdom” will finally be established.
Advent reminds us that God is still at work, drawing the world closer to God’s self. At the birth of Jesus, God inaugurated a whole new reality. The first Christmas was the dawn of a new day. It has already happened. But we are not fully “there” yet. Pain, injustice and war still mar the earth. But Advent reminds us that the promise of peace is still valid. Advent reminds us that God calls upon us to be instruments of peace, partners with God in bringing this world closer to what God intends it to be.
That’s an important reminder for us today. Our denomination, our nation and the world are all working through a time of high anxiety. God’s desires for this world have not changed. When God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, to declare that a new kingdom would be established with “justice and righteousness forever” (see Isaiah 9), it was not conditional. It was, and remains, a promise. Isaiah reminds us that the process started with King David, that now the authority rests upon Jesus, and that His kingdom will be established. God is still at work bringing this about.
One day, we will celebrate the “final victory” of Christ. I don’t know what that look likes, but I trust God to bring it about. The change that began at the first Christmas will one day be complete, but it’s not yet complete.
In the mean time, Advent reminds us to have hope, to live in love and to work for peace.
– – Jay