On a scale of 1-10, how geeked out are for the beginning of Advent tomorrow?
I am a 20…as in 20 Advent-purple fingers and toes.
I have always enjoyed the weeks leading up to Christmas. My extroverted personality bubbles with excitement at the hustle and bustle of the season. But it has only been in the last ten years that I given myself fully to a truly Christianpreparation for Christmas by practicing Advent.
No, I did not undergo some dramatic conversion a decade ago. I have been following Jesus and serving the church faithfully, as empowered by the Spirit, for much longer than that. But, ten years ago, a dramatic shift occurred in how I understood the season of Advent.
I always knew Advent had to do with waiting. As a child, I popped my daily chocolate out of the Advent calendar, counting down the days until Christmas when we would celebrate Jesus’ birth. I understood that the people of God waited for the Messiah with longing, as I longed to open the gifts under the tree. I watched intently as the strange trio of purple candles and one rogue pink candle were lit on Sunday mornings, listening to the ancient prophecies proclaiming the coming of the Messiah.
It was not until I was an adult that I understood the advent I had been celebrating was not the Advent; it was the first Advent. It is not too dramatic to say that scales fell from eyes when I heard the simple statement, “Because God kept his promise in sending Jesus the first time, we trust God will send him again, at just the right time.”
Because the first Advent, we have hope for the second Advent.
It took a long time for Jesus to come centuries ago. The people of God ached for their Messiah to come. And at just the right time, he did.
Now, it seems to be taking a painfully long time for him to return, but we wait in hope because, as my daughter’s storybook Bible repeatedly says, “God keeps his promises, even if it takes a long time.” And at just the right time.
With this deepened perspective, the sacred songs of the season have taken on new meaning.
The words of Charles Wesley's "Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus" give voice to the double-meaning, the celebration of the first Advent fulfilled and the aching hope for the second Advent we await:
Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Lord, with a joyful heart I praise you for keeping your first Advent promise in sending a Savior. At just the right time, you came to us, humble and poor, to inaugurate your Kingdom and set us free from Sin and Death. Now, as we await your second Advent, your glorious returning, when all shall be healed and made new, when your kingdom shall come in its fullness, I cling to the promises made and kept centuries ago. You kept your word; you will do so again. You came to us, broken and sin-sick as we are; you will come again. You broke the chains of Sin and Death; you will one day cast them into the sea forevermore. When I am tempted to despair, when the weight of the world’s sin and hurt, of my sin and hurt, bears down upon me, I remember that you are a God who keeps his promises, even if it takes a long time. At just the right time, you will come.
And so I worship, I hope, I work toward your peaceful Kingdom here and now.
So, with nails painted purple, a simple external sign of a deep, internal hope, I enter into this Advent season, ready prepare my heart once again, not only for the Christ child of Bethlehem, but for our coming King.
Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus.