Today is the Sunday of Advent, the yearly rhythm through which the church remembers and re-lives the eager expectation felt by the people of Israel as they waited for their Messiah.
Advent is a Latin word which means “the arrival,” and Christians have inhabited the Advent season for centuries as a way to bear witness and give name to the ways we’re still waiting for Jesus to work in our lives.
While the Gospel of Jesus declares that sin and death no longer hold eternal sway over those who belong to Jesus, sin still taints our daily lives. We suffer disappointment, loss, and grief; we find our dearest relationships strained by conflict, misunderstanding, and frustration; even our bodies suffer greatly under the weight of exhaustion, age, or illness.
After Jesus’ first arrival in the manger, He lived a perfect life and died a sinless death. When Jesus rose again to life and ascended into heaven, He promised a second Advent—a second arrival through which He would usher in a New Heavens and a New Earth, and would make all things right and new.
Paul, writing in Romans 8, says:
For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.
Advent is a yearly reminder of the many ways we are still waiting for God to move in our lives; that there are corners and spaces in each of us that need healing, need hope, and need a Savior. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes that our whole lives are an Advent season, eagerly waiting for Jesus to return, to make all things new.
In Advent we are invited to wait—to live with unmet desires and unfulfilled longings—until Jesus returns. We do without, yes, but we do so hopefully, knowing that Jesus always keeps His promises.
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Renew in us this day, O Lord, the hope of the new heaven and earth in which you will reign in light and we will live in peace; meanwhile, may Your Kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Coming King. Amen.