I’ve been thinking a lot about Advent recently. Partly because it is coming up so soon, and partly because of what it represents.
I don’t need to tell you that this world is a mess. Nations rage at one another; natural disasters destroy; famine threatens thousands upon thousands with starvation. Day after day we are faced with headlines and broadcasts that make us weep and say “Come, Lord Jesus…” But things remain as they are, and we continue to wait.
This is Advent.
In the Old Testament, the people of Israel longed for the Messiah to show up on the scene. I would think that after experiencing pretty consistent havoc, displacement, subjection to other nations, etc. it became a near constant desire. When will the Messiah come? When will he make right the things that are wrong? When will we see the end of our suffering?
For centuries they asked, and they waited. And waited. And waited. And then that beautiful day came – this long awaited…baby. Not exactly the king that was envisioned, but okay. Born in a barn, heralded by angels, surrounded by loners, feared by a king, and unknown to most.
At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus’ birth because we have the benefit of recognizing who that baby was. We know the end of that story! He grew and lived and ministered and died and rose again and promised to return. It’s the greatest story ever told because we know the whole story.
But because we know the whole story, we know that it’s not yet finished. We look at our world and we ask the same questions. When will the Messiah come back? When will he make right the things that are wrong? When will we see the end of our suffering?
You see, the long-awaited promise for Israel in the Old Testament is the long-awaited promise for the Church now, and that is Jesus Christ. He has come, and he will come again. The term “Advent” is derived from the Latin word “Adventus”, which means “coming”. Advent is the season that represents the waiting and longing for Jesus to return. It is a season of preparing and looking forward to something greater that will come. It is a season of expectation and anticipation. In the same way that Israel anticipated the birth of the Messiah, the Church anticipates his return. At Christmas, we celebrate the arrival of Jesus—but we share in the experience of the People of God because we wait and anticipate his return.
Darkness does not win. Death does not have the final say. Suffering and disease will be snuffed out the moment he returns. His reign will be eternal—and we remind ourselves of this during Advent. We hold fast to our faith, because we know for Whom and for What we are waiting.
For the next several weeks, we will be lighting a candle each Sunday representing the four virtues Jesus brings to us while we wait for his return: Peace, Hope, Love and Joy. We experience them now in part, knowing that one day we will experience them in full. Forever. We light the candles because Jesus Christ is the Light of the World, and his light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.
We hold fast to this promise, and we wait.