“O come, Thou Day-Spring
Come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, o Israel”
I never really understood the significance of Advent as a season of waiting until this year, as Dan and I have mourned alongside a dear friend recently devastated by the betrayal of someone close.
For three weeks now, we have been waiting—waiting for word, waiting for an explanation, waiting for direction, waiting for even the smallest sign of hope.
We have prayed that God would bring about repentance, reconciliation, and redemption.
We have prayed for patience, for wisdom, for a miracle.
Often I have thought about the people of Israel—mourning in lowly exile, waiting for the Messiah to release them from captivity. And often I have thought about the Church—waiting for a second Advent, waiting for all things to be made new and for the Kingdom of God to reach fruition.
This year I understand better what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”(Romans 8:22)
Encountering once again the devastating effects of our broken and sinful world, particularly this time of year, has stirred inside of me a strange sense of solidarity, and a surprising sense of hope. I don’t know how this specific situation will be healed, but Advent reminds me that God rewards the patient in unexpected and beautiful ways.
To those awaiting a military victory over their enemies, He sent a Messiah who taught liberation through forgiveness and peace.
To those awaiting political victory, He sent a King who was crucified on a cross.
To those awaiting wealth and power, He anointed a Servant to “preach good news to the poor…to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed.” (Luke 4:18)
And to those awaiting a mighty and vengeful God, He sent a helpless baby.
God’s ways are always unexpected, but always right. He answers our prayers, not by giving us what we want, but by giving us what we need. At Advent we remember that God will make good on His promise to redeem this screwed up world, even if He has to squeeze Himself into flesh and blood to do it.
But in the meantime, we wait.
And sometimes waiting sucks.
In what ways are you waiting this Advent season? What have you learned about patience and hope this year?