Advent is a season of anticipation…of waiting. But, as people living on this side of the arrival of God in the person of Jesus, are we in waiting or is Advent simply an experiential simulation of a past waiting?
To get to the answer, let’s consider the waiting of the ancient people of Israel. The Hebrew Scriptures tell us that they lived with a desperate longing for God (1) to obliterate all the oppressive messiness in the world that was hurting people; and (2) to create a new heaven & new earth where all things were as they were intended to be.
So how did they wait?
On the scene during Israel’s peak in military strength, wealth, and expanse, the prophet Isaiah critiqued the people of God for their misdirected worship of their treasure and weapons rather than of God (Isaiah 2:7). Their waiting took the form of a national idolatry that resulted in a polluted culture where exploitation trumped human flourishing.
And then, suddenly, unexpectedly, their waiting ended when God inserted Himself into the world, taking the embryonic form within the womb of a teenage virgin. In the person of Jesus, God immersed into our neighborhood for 30 years where He lived and taught a new way of being human. So unconventional was His way that they killed Him for it, but the Story didn’t end there. After He wore a cross and was buried in a rock, He rose again, defeating the powers that oppress and inaugurating a new world that He would usher in through a Jesus-looking people.
He promised his community that He would both send His Spirit to empower them and that He would come back. Then, as suddenly as He arrived, He left. One wait was over…but a new one had begun.
It is here that we find ourselves. We are a people living in a beautifully bizarre in-between. We live in-between the moment when God came and waged a decisive peace between us AND the moment when God will return and restore all things to the way they were supposed to be. The in-between matters, so as a waiting people, how ought we wait?
In 2 Peter 3:8-15, the author encourages a community who finds itself between the already of Christ having come and the not yet of His return to wait with diligence and at peace. Rather than an encouragement to simply remain calm until God makes good on His promise, this is an exhortation to live a life of peace with urgency.
What does this kind of life look like?
- It begins with believing that the work of God in the person of Jesus happened and that it worked.
- It continues as we, daily, embrace our identity as God’s beloved by dropping our buckets into the deep well that is Jesus Christ.
- It involves pointing, with our words and our lives, to the freedom, forgiveness, and fullness that Jesus made possible.
- It includes joining God in ushering in a world where reconciliation and human flourishing trump power-hoarding and exploitation.
This Advent, as in last, we find ourselves as a waiting people within a beautifully bizarre in-between. Rather than these next five weeks being little more than an experiential simulation of a past waiting, let’s embrace the wait as a people who, with our words and lives, point to Jesus and to the hope, peace, joy, deliverance, justice, freedom, and healing that He’s made possible. With urgency, let’s join Him in ushering in the new world He’s making.
Who knows? Perhaps this is our last Advent…