Advent Week 1
I grew up in a house that really didn’t keep promises. Many times I found myself let down by an adult who didn’t keep their word. One moment in particular that I remember is one of my biological father: he and my mom divorced when I was a baby and I didn’t grow up near him, but he would visit a few times a year when I was a small child. As I got older, his visits became more sporadic until years would pass when I didn’t see or hear from him. One year, after a long while of not hearing from him, he called and set a date to visit me. When I say that I was excited it is an understatement. I was proud and I felt so loved and remembered. He gave us a time that he was to arrive at my house and I sat by the front window watching and waiting. The sun eventually went down and the street lights turned on, dinner grew cold and my mom finally turned me around and told me that she didn’t think that he would be coming. I was crushed. I slumped to the ground and cried and cried. My father made me a promise and he never came. Now as an adult I try to piece this memory together. Depending on the memory of an 8 or 9 year old means that it could very well have been that my mother lied to me that he was coming or it was him. Regardless, as a young child this moment was seared into my consciousness and changed me forever.
The essence of being a Christian is placing all of our hope in God and trusting that he will fulfill all of his promises. And he’s promised us a lot. Actually, he has promised us everything. But it is his promise of a messiah- the one for whom all of God’s other promises depend- that God’s people for generations looked to with great hope and longing.
In Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses said,“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—”
Isaiah said in 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Jeremiah 25:5-6 says, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”
But this messiah was to be God’s own son, sent to die and be raised again to accomplish what we could not: to defeat sin and death and to restore all of creation. God has promised us that the messiah, Jesus, will return to finish what he has started and every heart is marked with a longing and a desire for his return. Christian faith is a life that watches and waits for God’s promise to come to pass.
As for me and my story, however, I am bent towards distrust. When Christian faithfulness swivels on the hope of Christ’s return, God’s greatest promise to us, I admittedly get uncomfortable. And that’s why advent is an important time of year for me to ruminate over and contemplate the beautiful reality that God came to live among us, as the prophets foretold, and that he will come again. Because that’s what advent is. It is to remember Israel’s long anticipation for the messiah to come so that we would remain confident and steadfast in God’s promises for his return. That’s what Christmas is and should do for the Christian. It should expose the places inside of us that don’t trust the Lord, his goodness and his faithfulness to us. Christmas every year draws me to remember his promises and to look to them with great hope.
I don’t know about you, but all of the articles and writings about what Christmas is “actually” about rub me the wrong way. Maybe because most of them focus on Christmas being a time of giving, focusing on Jesus’ birth, or spending time with family. And really, all of these calls for reinventing Christmas all fall short. Unless we get at the heart of what all of creation longs for, that is Christ’s second coming, it is all for naught. It will always leave us empty and wanting more. No matter how much we give, or how many carols we listen to, or how many gifts we buy, or how much we over spiritualize Christmas, we will never be fulfilled. It’s because our hearts don’t long for Christmas. It longs for Christ’s return. The day that all of Christian faith depends and for which God has promised.