(Note: This post was originally written for my church's newsletter.)
It happened this past week in mid-November. Both my kids at different times asked the age-old question, “When is Christmas going to be here?” They are already anticipating the presents, decorations, and food that heralds the heralds of Christ’s birth. And who can blame them? In spite of the stress that some of us feel before Christmas, it’s still a joy and wonder to wait for what we all know is coming.
I was reminded this morning by a devotional reading that the very name the Church gives for the weeks before Christmas — Advent — means “coming.” It is a time that we live with patience and preparation (and excitement!) for what will soon arrive. One of the things that I love about Advent is how it represents the way we are meant to live as Christians all the time. We are always looking with hope and excitement towards the future, always keeping an eye on what’s coming.
I find this an important reminder for myself as we head into another Christmas, a new year, and another (early) winter. There are always reasons to be pessimistic about…almost everything, and this year is no different, with ISIS and Ebola causing havoc and heartbreak, Russia seemingly focused on another Cold War, domestic politics that are as partisan and bitter as most of us can ever remember, and so on. (Like, why is it this cold in November?)
But as Christians, we are called to live in the now and the not yet. While we seek to love and serve in the present, to ease suffering and care for those in need, we also speak of the not yet, the coming Kingdom of God (or, as I like to call it, “God’s Reality”) where joy and love will prosper and suffering and trouble will end. Christmas happens just after the shortest day of the year and for generations, the Church has used the circumstance as a metaphor that once Jesus appears, light in the world increases.
In October and November of this year, I’ve preached on a lot of texts from Matthew where Jesus describes his eventual return. Many of these have images that can seem threatening and scary (Matthew is very fond of the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth”), but for Christians, these words carry a great promise: God doesn’t want the world to be suffering and unjust and some day Jesus is coming to fix it all. All the things that cause us fear and heartbreak — near or far, big or small — are temporary compared to the promises of God. Therefore, we look for the coming of Jesus just like we wait for the coming of Christmas: with joy and excitement. When is Christmas going to be here?
In God's Amazing Grace,
“Blah blah love and war.” -The Rescues, “Did It Really Even Matter”