Advent is here.
And so we wait.
It wasn’t until last year that I understood what Advent means, the arrival or the coming of. The only time I’d ever heard the word advent before last year was in the phrase advent calendar.
Jesus was born. Yes. The wise men, the shepherds. Yes. But spending a month waiting, praying, pondering, and preparing for the celebration of his birth? Huh?
I am so glad my perspective on Advent has changed. I am learning the beauty and grace found in waiting. In the waiting, I find a greater appreciation for the awaited.
John explains that Jesus “was life, and the life was the light of men.” The light Jesus brought to the world shone brightly against a dark world that was not ready for him, but was in such dire need of him. They heard, but did not believe. They saw, but chose to turn away.
Is our world now any different?
The Son of God, this Messiah, borne of Mary but conceived of the Holy Spirit, came to his own world and was rejected.
John explains in his gospel that the world did not know Jesus (v. 10). They were not ready. God’s people waited for His arrival; when he arrived, they did not accept him. They were told of his coming. They were expecting Him, yet they weren’t prepared. Jesus was born into darkness, pain, and he was greeted by an anxious, wary people. He was not born into a world at its best behavior. It was at its worst. His adventus comes in the pitch blackness of sin, pain, confusion, chaos.
Cosmos in chaos. Jesus, meet World. World, meet Jesus. Dirty and Destitute, meet the Savior for whom you’ve been waiting. Divine, meet the Dirty and Destitute who need you but won’t accept you.
May we be different.
Long before He sent His Son, God spoke to his people through the prophet Isaiah, crying, “Israel does not know! My people don’t get it!”
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. [. . .] When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
Written some 730 or so years before the birth of Jesus, the book of Isaiah paints a grim picture of God’s relationship with His people. 300 years or so later, the prophet Malachi speaks similar words of frustration and doom.
And then, nada. The world hears not from the Lord for the next 430 years.
In this darkness–the hopelessness, the weariness, the anxiety, the silence–Jesus enters. John says the darkness of the world cannot overcome the light Jesus brings to the world–hope, peace, love, joy, truth, expectation, grace, mercy, and glory, glory, Alleluia.
Many of His people still did not get it. After all that, and they do not understand that Jesus was the Hope they were waiting for.
And what have we learned? The world is still dark, still doubting, still denying.
My thoughts fall on Ferguson and the narratives that so many brothers and sisters have that I will never have. Fear, anxiety, frustration. The things they have to teach their sons and daughters that my husband and I have never had to think about.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
My thoughts fall on my parents, who live daily with pain, depression, stress, and discrimination because of their socioeconomic status coupled with the fact that they take prescription pain medication.
We wait, Jesus.
My thoughts fall on church corruption, anger and hate-mongering amidst believers, selfishness, bigotry, and false teachings flying from pompous pulpits.
How have we not learned? We are Israel, and our princes our rebels, our offerings empty.
And this is why we spend Advent preparing ourselves. So we might be ready. So we might understand. So we get it.
We spend a month acknowledging our great need so we can better understand how our needs are met in the person of Jesus. These are indeed tidings of great joy. The people who once walked in darkness have seen a great light!
The Word became flesh. The Light is here, and the darkness will not overcome Him. I read the words of John the Baptist said so long ago: “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord!'” His voice reaches from then to now, and I realize:
This is the preparation, the getting-ready for Advent. We see the dark; we feel it; we walk through it. We live it.
And we also prepare; we make straight the way. We wash our hands, seek to do good. We correct oppression, and bring justice. We lift our hands, knowing we are not worthy. We offer all we have at the Lord’s feet. Our uttered prayers come from the deepest parts of us, heart-cries. We ready ourselves to truly, wholly grasp the significance of Emmanuel, God with us in a dark, doubting, denying wilderness of a world.
The birth of Jesus is the Light of the World descending to dwell in a dark, lost, and confused world–cosmos meeting chaos. It’s a reality that is happening now just as it was at his birth years ago.
And so each Advent, we wait, expect, and prepare to experience anew and again the hope, peace, love, joy, expectation, grace, mercy, and glory, glory, Alleluia of Jesus. And we pray we are changed.
The prophet Isaiah prophesies in chapter 9, verses 2-3 the very thing we celebrate today, years after the birth of the Light of the World:
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when the divide the spoil.
As people who have once walked in darkness but have now seen the light, may we experience His glory this Advent season–the glory of glories that can only be of the Son from the Father, full of beauty and grace and truth, the great Light that alone increases our joy and celebration.