Yesterday marked the first Sunday in Advent, the time in the Church year that we look forward to and wait for Christmas. Christmas marks the coming of Emmanuel, God with us, the incarnation of the holy God becoming human and bringing the promised salvation to us all. Advent is the time we wait for this coming and all it’s implications. Advent is when we wait for the dignity of humanity to be restored. Advent is when we wait for shalom (the overarching peace, harmony, and health of all things in the cosmos) to be renewed. Advent is when we wait for the culpable violation and rape of shalom to finally be judged and for all to be once and for all set right. Advent is when we wait for Jesus who came in a manger and is coming again in majesty, glory, and power.
Why waiting though? Why does the Church year begin with this season of waiting, unfulfillment, longing? Why not begin with Christmas time, easter, something more joyous that the haunting emptiness of waiting?
As much as we want to start with celebration, with victory, feasting, and joy, to do so would be unfaithful to the actual story of our lives. Right now, Sarah and I are waiting. We are waiting to see the face of Ender, our son. We are waiting in this time of gestation for a human life to grow from conception into birth. We wait, becoming more and more ready for the birth of a human being . Ender also is waiting, and growing.
Waiting does something in us, to us. True waiting is the very opposite of stagnation. True waiting brings growth and development.
So, at advent, we remember the waiting that the Old Testament is all about. At creation, God began to reveal to humanity and all creation exactly who he is. Even after our rebellion, he continued the revelation, building and compounding on what he had already made known about himself, nurturing a relationship with humanity and creation, promising that one day we would see him fully and completely. So, we waited to see the face and person of God. In this waiting, we discovered the breadth of our brokenness and depth of our need. We waited and failed, losing hope, forgetting the promise, becoming self-absorbed, adulterous, stony-hearted shadows of humanity.
Yet, there was still growth.
God continued to show us who he is, reminding us of the promise, calling us into the healing found in relationship with him. Gods growing revelation nudged something in us. Despite our brokenness and need, our failure and continued rebellion, hope and anticipation grew in us. At the discovery of God’s revelation, as the picture began to get clearer, our hard hearts began to beat, we began casting down our other lovers, and hope was rekindled. There was a growing sense that the time was becoming ripe. Soon God’s promise to show us all of him self in a clear and truthful fashion was going to come to pass, and everything would change.
In advent we wait, remembering all the waiting that has come before and living in the waiting that is our life now. In this waiting, we grow and gestate into people who can celebrate Christmas… people who can believe and accept a babe in a manger as our savior… people who know that everything is different now and someday everything will be made new and completely different again… people who can believe and accept the Son of God who is coming.
At advent, we start with waiting because our lives are waiting now, growing, developing, and healing in this time of gestation, of waiting. We wait, knowing that the celebration is coming. We wait, wanting to be ready for the party. We wait, believing we wont stay waiting forever. We wait, and in waiting anticipation builds, spills out, and begins the change that is coming to our world.
So we wait.