Advent is a season of anticipation — a season of hopeful waiting. During this time we feel the strong sense of longing for God as we await his coming once again on Christmas Day in the form of a little baby. What makes Christmas such a beautiful day is the anticipatory work we do leading up to that day. We decorate, we wrap presents, we gather with family, we sing songs, we get excited.
This type of anticipation can help to put ourselves in the shoes of first century Palestine. These people had been hearing prophecy for generations about a coming Messiah that would save them. Along the way they would see glimpses of what was about to come, not fully knowing what it would mean. God is coming! What will that look like? What will it feel like? How will everything change?
I’ve always loved the way Frederick Buechner describes advent. He writes: “The house lights go off and the footlights come on. Even the chattiest stir chattering as they wait in darkness for the curtain to rise. In the orchestra pit, the violin bows are poised. The conductor raises his baton…. The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment” (Whistling in the Dark: A Doubter’s Dictionary). Advent is the moment right before something significant takes place, which is felt as equally significant as what is to come.
I can’t help but resonate with this season in a whole new way as I anticipate the coming of my daughter in the new year. As many of you know, Pastor Tim and my season of waiting for a child was long and at times very painful. Three years of medical treatments and tests and finally, after all that time, our miracle child. Often times, waiting and anticipation can be an arduous journey — one filled with ups and downs, triumphs and set-backs. It can be quite the roller coaster, but in the end, we find joy, maybe even not in the way we expected.
This is the promise of Adv. We all go through times of anticipation and waiting. Sometimes it’s waiting for a relationship to change or grow. Sometimes it’s the hope for a new job or a new beginning. Sometimes it’s the need for a life change. Whatever it is, we have all been there, waiting… and waiting… and waiting. There can be despair in the waiting. But Advent shows us that God is doing something during these times of waiting, and that in the end all will be made right. Even as we sing with deep longing the words “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” this season, may you find peace in your heart in your moments of waiting, knowing that God is on his way to you. And that in the end, all will be made well. For God is with us. That is the promise of Christmas.