By Ian Hodge
We’ve entered into the season of Advent. Many of us are only familiar with an advent wreath, or perhaps an Advent calendar. But Advent is much more than a countdown to Christmas and all the attendant traditions and celebrations. Advent touches on something much deeper and more meaningful. Advent reminds us that we are waiting for something—expectantly, on the edge of our seats. And Advent encourages us to live in that waiting for a time.
There are things in life that must be waited for if we are to experience them fully when they come. You can’t eat a big lunch just before you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner. You have to come hungry to enjoy it to the fullest! The same is true of Christmas—we must learn how to wait for it in order to receive it all!
We wait for Christmas by turning our attention to the things that have gone wrong, often terribly so, in our world. We remember that our lives are not yet complete, and the lives of our neighbors are not yet complete. They are often beset by mourning and loss and tragedy. Advent is the time to stop pretending that everything is okay. But Advent doesn’t leave us hopeless.
Advent tells us to take the brokenness in our world and lay it before God’s feet, to ask the burning questions of Him that suffering brings. “God, how could you let this happen? Are you really going to stand idly by? Can’t you see that my neighbor, that my loved one, that I myself, that the whole world needs a great rescue? Don’t wait any longer, come and make it right!” (e.g., Genesis 18:23-25, Psalms 13:1-4, 79:5, and many more). Fleming Rutledge describes the pressing Advent conundrum as “We’re just waiting for doom or for a breakthrough from heaven.”
And Christmas was a breakthrough from heaven! Christmas comes as the foundation on which God will build the world aright again. That’s why the angel tells Mary to give her son the name “Jesus,” which means “Savior” or “God saves.” That’s why Mary responds in praise by saying that God feeds the hungry, but leaves the rich without food, or exalts the humble but casts down the powerful. Christmas was the day the Savior stepped into the world, and if we are to receive him as such, we must remember that we need to be saved!
But Christmas isn’t the last word. That’s why Advent is more than just a build-up to Christmas. Christmas is only the first Advent of Jesus, there is another yet to come. There is a future day when the King will finally be revealed, when the swaddling clothes are laid aside and the purple robe taken up, when the promise and the down payment become fact and full ownership. The world was broken, at Christmas the rescuer entered the picture, but Advent reminds us to go even a step further, to hail the coming day when the rescue will be complete!
So, this Christmas I hope and pray that each one of us will have the courage to wait by confronting the darkness, shining the light of Christmas upon it, and to continue expectantly waiting, badgering God for the day when the rescue will be complete!
Ian Hodge is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Lemon Cove. He may be reached by calling 559-597-2249.
Prays Together is a rotating column between the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.