by Matthew Morgan
But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. — Micah 7:7
Read Luke 2:25-35
Advent is the season in the Christian calendar in which the Church waits for Jesus. Waits for the baby boy born at Christmas and waits for the victorious Savior who is coming back. It’s a celebration of the incarnation and hopeful anticipation for the Second Coming. We wait now for Christ’s return, just as Israel waited for His human birth.
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
These words came to the prophet Malachi in the 5th century BC, little more than 400 years before the birth of Christ, and then God closed His mouth. He had warned them that a time of silence was coming, a time in which they would search high and low for a word from the Lord, but they would not find it (Amos 8:11-12).
This is where we find the people of Israel. The chosen ones of God in Roman-occupied territory, under the oppression of pagan rulers desperately waiting for a new Word from Yahweh. Their Scriptures gave them hope that God would act, hope that God had not abandoned them. While in exile, under foreign rule, God promised them that He had not abandoned them, that he would send a rescuer.
And so they waited.
We catch a glimpse of the waiting Israel in Simeon and Anna. Luke 2 tells us that Simeon waited eagerly for the “consolation of Israel.” Simeon experienced the disappointment – the chosen people of God under foreign rule. He waited for the comfort and rescue that God promised. And Anna, an elderly Jewish widow, understanding what it’s like to lose that which gives one protection and identity, she waits. She effectively moved to the temple desperate to see and experience the moment when God again acts on Israel’s behalf. In Simeon and Anna we see a people lost, powerless, and desperate and all they know to do is wait.
We aren’t very good at waiting, especially when we are lost or life has gotten out of our control. In fact, anytime that we find ourselves waiting, something has broken down. And yet, during this season, we are encouraged to intentionally assume a posture of waiting. Encouraged because we are a people that understand “perfect fullness is always to come and we do not need to demand it now” (Richard Rohr). The mantra of Advent is Come, Lord Jesus.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Come, Lord Jesus.
This is our prayer. It is a cry that won’t fully be answered until Christ’s return. We yearn for an end to injustice that will only come about when this age passes away. We long for an end to poverty all the while knowing the truth that the poor will always be amongst us. We eagerly wait for an end to war while recognizing that the power, pride, and fear that leads to violence are deeply embedded heart issues that will not be quickly fixed. And yet, as we pray and as we wait, the story of Christmas reminds us that Christ is indeed born into our midst. The birth narratives of Matthew and Luke are full of people waiting; waiting because they long for God’s action in the world. We see it in Simeon and Anna but others too – Elizabeth, Zechariah, Mary, the shepherds. And while these representatives of the waiting Israel yearn for God to act, Christ breaks into the world. Similarly while we wait, Christ is born into our present world, if only we can have eyes to see.
The season of advent is a season of tension between waiting for that which only God can do and doing our part to bring a little bit of Christmas into this very day, in this very place. Our prayer of “Come, Lord Jesus,” is not merely a prayer of lament or hope it is also prayer for courage that we might, like Mary, be a vessel by which Jesus enters the world. This season of advent, may we wait with hope AND live as Christ.