It’s the first week of December, which means it’s officially socially acceptable to start stringing lights, donning your favorite seasonal sweater, and drinking hot chocolate by a fire. Or, if you’re like me, you began your dive into the ‘holiday spirit’ a little early – listening to Christmas radio the day after Halloween (no regrets). Either way, a celebration is beginning, and we are eager to be part of it ASAP. We are in fact so enthusiastic to get to Christmas Day that we tend to forget the meaning of Advent and the joy that comes from not only the coming of Christ, but the waiting for His return.
To be candid, prior to my research and writing, my practice of Advent went about as far as a chocolate calendar and purple candles. I mean, we all have some idea of what Advent is – a time to prepare our hearts for the Lord and a time for patience and enduring trust that Christ will return – but how can we really fathom it and truly experience the joy of it? We spend each day in a fallen world, full of broken promises and failed commitments. Our friends flake on weekend plans, favors are rarely returned, and cheating and lying abound. With so much pain and vulnerability in this world, how could we possibly comprehend the infallible promise of Christ’s return?
Theologian Karl Barth wrote, “Unfulfilled and fulfilled promise are related to each other, as are dawn and sunrise. Both are promise and in fact the same promise. If anywhere at all, then it is precisely in the light of the coming of Christ that faith has become Advent faith…It is fulfilled faith because it lays hold on the fulfilled promise.”
That is the Advent faith we experience this month. It is the difficult faith, the challenging faith, and the type of faith we will want to perhaps overshadow with our twinkling trees. Yes, waiting and trusting can be daunting, but unlike the pain that comes from our faith in people and faith in this world, this is a promise that can bring joy and a promise that will be fulfilled. As we trust the sun will rise and set, we can be steadfast in our belief that Jesus will fulfill the promise of His return.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9).
So while you cozy up in your fuzzy, candy-cane-stripped socks to watch a Christmas movie marathon (we’ve all been there), try to celebrate not just the first coming of Christ, but take a moment to appreciate the promise of the second. Slow down and experience the excitement of waiting, the comfort of a true commitment, and the beauty of your Advent faith.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3)