You experience it when you get that college acceptance letter in the mail.
You experience it when you receive the medical test results in your email inbox.
You experience it when you look out the window and notice those seeds you planted are finally starting to sprout.
You experience it when your OB/GYN hands you your baby for the first time and you gaze deeply into those newborn eyes.
You experience it when, after everything's been done, you witness the end of a loved one's suffering as she drifts into eternal rest.
For Christ-followers, the fulfillment of your waiting arrives, and what remains is Peace. Waiting upon the LORD is God's way of quieting our hearts as we joyfully expect Jesus to come through at his divinely appointed time for his divinely appointed purpose. "But those who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Isa. 40:31, NRSV).
If we're looking closely, friends, Advent is all around us--yet most of it has nothing to do with this blessed season leading up to Christmas.
What I love about Advent is that it's designed to help us appreciate the gift of active waiting. Though technology often gives us information instantaneously, most of the best things in life require patient, active waiting. Twiddling thumbs and avoiding the work of faith is not the kind of discipleship to which we are called. As Christians, we are tempted to latch onto anxiety while we wait for God's word to reveal itself to us. And yet, Advent, the joyful expectation of the 1st and 2nd coming of Jesus Christ as well as Christ's inbreaking presence in here and now gives no thought to anxiety, worry, fear or doubt. Instead, Advent reminds us that, as God's children, we anticipate Jesus to show up, by faith, while we actively wait and walk in obedience, believing that Christ will arrive at any moment. I love Luke 17:21b: "For in fact, the kingdom of God is among you." This proves that life is Advent, that God is calling us to obey him patiently while we actively observe Jesus in all that we see and do in our days. Jesus proves this for it is the earliest words we have of Jesus as an adult when he begins his ministry in Mark 1:15: "'The time has come,” he said. 'The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!'” The books of Daniel and Revelation remind us that God is breaking into our experiences in ways that coronate Jesus as King, and we must remain faithful to the Lord while we wait on his promises to be fulfilled in our individual and collective lives as God's Church. We must hold these two truths in tension: while we anticipate Jesus' final return at any moment, we must actively look for Christ to show up among us as people forgive, heal, restore, administer justice and experience deliverance through reconciling relationships.
Embracing Advent means to embody this special season leading up to Christmas such that our faith is strengthened because we confidently expect that since Jesus arrived in Bethlehem the first time, he'll come again a final time to make all things new. What joy! What bliss! The Savior of the world was born into this world in a messy stable and revealed in human flesh. Mary's pregnancy teaches us a lot about Advent. In Matthew and Luke, we watch the story of Mary unfold; the nine months of waiting on Jesus' birth gave us the stories of Joseph and the dream, Mary and the angel's visit, and Elizabeth proclaiming the wonder and joy of the Divine child that Mary is carrying. In this way, God is compelling us to wait on Jesus' birth; God did this intentionally to show us that actively waiting in obedience to God proves how much God loves us. What a compassionate God we serve! When we embrace the hope of Mary's pregnancy and Joseph's loyalty in the midst of public disdain, we more fully appreciate the ecstacy of the shepherds as they laid their eyes on the newborn King. Trusting in God's word to come true takes active waiting, and therefore takes active obedience. When we embrace Advent in our daily lives we trust God to show up, in God's time, for God's purposes, knowing that Jesus yearns to glorify himself in order that we, too, might draw closer to the warmth of his love.
By embracing Advent as a way of discipleship we choose to "be still and know that [God] is God" (Ps. 46:10a). Our hearts and minds are less concerned with selfish thoughts and motives and instead fixated on serving others--after all, Jesus can be trusted, and will fulfill his word at the right time (Hab. 2:3). Though the vision might tarry (God tells Habakkuk), God's will is always revealed right on time! This means that whatever you are expectantly waiting for God is using time as a gift to increase our trust in the LORD, "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" (Isa. 55:10-11, NIV). God uses the gifts of Advent and time to call us to immediate obedience--to delay our active waiting might mean forfeiting our opportunities to watch King Jesus break into our daily suffering. Let us, therefore lift up our eyes and look to Jesus, the source of all our help (Ps. 121:1-2).
Yes, Advent leads us into the season of Christmas, but the rich, pertinent lessons of Advent cannot be overlooked or ignored. Confidently and expectantly waiting upon God to show up in Christ must be the perspective of every Jesus-follower. There is purpose in lighting the candles of hope, peace, joy and love during this beloved and holy season of Advent. Notice that we don't light them all at once, but we light them one week at a time. For in the fullness of time, we discover the power of God's healing light and love...it overwhelms us with joy and gratitude for the salvation and forgiveness we receive together in Christ. It leads us into a magnificent celebration, that of Jesus, the true Christmas miracle.
This is how I believe God in Christ Jesus our Lord wants us to embrace this blessed Advent season at UBC: watch for Jesus to show up in a child placing a chrismon on our tree, observe the Christ child in the reverent way an adult places a poinsettia on our altar stairs, and taste the goodness of the Savior when the cracker and the juice hit your tongue on the morning of our Christmas Communion Service. I think you'll find that Jesus is still arriving, still showing up, even as we wait for him to come back to earth on that final, rapturous day when all the waiting, all the suffering and all the obedience will become for us what heaven is all about. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Joy to the world, the Lord has come, is coming now and will come back again,
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