Waiting …

Advent. “Coming.” “Arrival.”

Many of us from Evangelical or low church traditions have little history with the several weeks leading up to Christmas.  I feel like I am just seeing the tip of the iceberg that is Advent.  But I’m realizing that the arrival of the gift means so little without the anticipation of said gift.  In the case of Christmas, the gift being Jesus, the conduit of reconciliation and justice once and for all.  My friend Beth, an Episcopalian from whom I learn much about liturgical faith, maintains that Christmas cannot and should not be separated from its eschatalogical character.  Meaning the world “put to rights” in the new heavens and the new earth.  We do believe this is what Jesus — “God made flesh” — brings, right?

But before the realization of the new heavens and the new earth, there is groaning.  And waiting.  Anticipation, yes.  Glimmers of light breaking through the darkness, yes.  But groaning and waiting.  That’s what Psalm 77, our Psalm in today’s Advent readings, is about.

Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?

I don’t know about you, but that sounds familiar.  But wait, a glimmer of light shines through the darkness:

Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.’

The Psalmist remembers what God did for the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. That they grumbled at their discomfort, at the injustice around them — and God delivered them.  That miraculously, God redeemed his people.  That’s what God does.  He redeems.

That’s what Christmas is about — redemption.  But Advent is important because we need to groan, to wait, to anticipate the completion of this redemption.  I just have to share Beth’s “Advent plan.”  I like it.  I’m developing more of a plan year by year.  Beth’s definitely got the wheels turning this year.  Check it out:

1. A “waiting list.” I’m going to make a note every time I see something which can be explained by the fact that we are still waiting for the new heavens and the new earth. (“It’s not supposed to be this way.”) I expect this to happen quite a lot.
2. Pray for the coming of the Kingdom. Although I say the Lord’s Prayer at least twice a day, I don’t really spend much time asking in a focused way for the Kingdom to be realized.
3. Re-read NT Wright’s Surprised by Hope. Even though it talks about Easter, the book meshes very well with the traditional Advent theme of the Four Last Things.

Imagine how joyous Christmas morning will be after a season commemorated in those three ways? Thoughts?

By the way, I highly recommend Beth’s blog: Until Translucent. I stole the photo above from her blog as well, along with the idea to make it my computer desktop throughout Advent. I’m such a thief.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by PK on December 8, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Steve, great post. Judging by the picture, I’d say those of us in Abilene are especially well positioned for the anticipation.


  2. […] Here is an excellent holiday time post from Harvest Boston discussing one person’s growth in learning about advent and the redem… […]


  3. Indeed, PK! I just thought of a joke about using the empty chairs from all the declining churches, but I’ll pass on that one…


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