I have never been very good at advent. We don’t have any traditions of advent calendars or advent wreaths. It is usually a season marked by decorating, some Christmas themed activities, and a push to get the shopping done.
But this year I have been looking forward to advent unlike any other year.
This year, I can’t wait to wait.
We have had a year full of division and difficulty. 2016 saw terrorist bombings in Belgium that killed dozens of people and injured hundreds. Egyptian Flight 804 crashed into the Mediterranean. The refugee crisis in the middle east continues to rage. Zika virus spread across the Americas. 49 people were killed in a shooting in an Orlando night club, while more than 50 others were injured. Racial tensions have risen across America with the killing of unarmed black men, as well as the killing of police officers. And America has lived through an extremely long and polarizing presidential election, which has left some people thrilled, and others devastated, deepening already existing divides.
And now, as we approach the end of the calendar year, the church celebrates the first season of the liturgical year, the season of Advent.
Advent signifies the coming of Christ, the beginning of a new season. And it looks forward to the final coming of Christ, which will usher in the completed work of God’s Kingdom.
The season of Advent is a reminder that there is a greater Kingdom than those of the earth. This is not a future Kingdom, or some far off work of God, this is a Kingdom that has already come.
As Christians, we are called to action here and now. We are called to do justice, and love mercy. We are called to care for orphans and foreigners. In short, it is our calling to make this sinful world a better place for its sinful inhabitants. And we are to do so through the power and strength of Jesus Christ. This means we work for justice with, through, and against the powers and governments of this world. But it never means that the powers of this world will save us. It never means that our Christian faith aligns us inextricably with any government or nation.
It means that our salvation is beyond the powers of this world.
It means that our justice is beyond the powers of this world.
It means that our future is beyond the powers of this world.
We do not put our hope in men, or women, or militaries, or governments to save us.
Advent reminds us that we have freedom beyond any freedom this earth can offer us, and that we are citizens of a Kingdom that has already been inaugurated. Rather than railing against culture, or separating ourselves from culture, we have the power and the obligation to define culture, to create it, to show the world the culture of the Kingdom.
Over two thousand years ago, a young woman accepted God’s call on her life, and everything was forever changed. Everything. Eternity came crashing in, and salvation poured down like a waterfall in the desert. The work has begun, but we wait for it to be completed.
At advent, we wait.
Like Mary awaiting the birth of her promised baby, we wait.
Like prisoners awaiting freedom, we wait.
Like wanderers awaiting our permanent home, we wait.
And as this year draws to a close, the next liturgical year begins. It begins with waiting for the promise that has come, and will come in fullness.
My hope is in that promise.
This year, I can’t wait to wait.