This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent, a season of deliberate anticipation and longing when in celebration and remembrance of God’s breaking into the world in human form, we unashamedly yearn for his return.
This year has often felt like a year of waiting. Waiting for the lockdown to lift, waiting for kids to return to school (that was for the parents who suddenly found themselves home-schooling), waiting for church services to resume, waiting for borders to open, waiting in quarantine for those who needed to travel, waiting for COVID tests to come back, (still) waiting for morning tea after services and on it goes. Of course, even without COVID, waiting is a part of life, that’s why we have waiting rooms. And as I’m sure, like me, you’ve heard before, in a ‘microwave’ or ‘instant’ generation, waiting gets old very quickly.
So spare a thought to the Israelites. Waiting, literally hundreds of years, from generation to generation, for the promised Messiah, for the Christ. Generations of people born waiting who died waiting. Hebrews 11 puts it this way ‘All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised…” When I think about that, I feel a little sad as I read the gospels. So many people spent their entires lives, devoted themselves, to waiting for God’s promised saviour. And for every Simeon who declared “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations,” there were others who looked at Jesus as a deceiver (John 7) and an enemy of God. People who failed to see. People who lost their way in the midst of waiting. It’s this truth that makes the faith of those mentioned in Hebrews 11 so remarkable. Their waiting never ceased and their faith and hope, their expectation and anticipating never ceased – it may not have always burned with the same intensity but it was always present and this perpetual hope and expectation is no guarantee. Jesus warns us of this, in our own anticipating and longing for his return when he gave the parable of the 10 virgins. The bridegroom was a long time in coming and they all became drowsy and fell asleep (Matt 25:5). The difference was that some were prepared.
I think, over the course of a year, as we follow Jesus, live our lives before him, we can grow weary, we grow tired, we get to the end of the year feeling like we just made it. Advent is a wonderful season of being replenished and refuelled to continue to long for and anticipate the King’s return. Advent reminds us that the king has already come once and so he will come again. I hope in the midst of all the many things you wait for, front and center is the return of the Lord Jesus – it will be the most glorious of days, and so I pray that the glory and wonder of Christ’s entry into the world as a babe be fuel for renewed hope in the greatest of days. Let us not become drowsy and fall asleep but have eyes wide-awake this season of advent.