This Sunday marks the beginning of a new church calendar year, with the season of Advent. There are at least three things I like about the season of Advent.
First, I like the mood that scripture, theology and liturgy instill within us with the emphasis on the three-fold coming(s) of Jesus the Messiah—past, present and future. Learning from the past, living fully in the present, and hopeful preparation for the future.
Second, I like the Advent hymns, which we don’t get to sing much during the other seasons of the church year. They evoke within us—among other things—awe, reverence, humility and repentance, and the longing for the ushering in of the fullness of God’s realm with the coming Messiah.
Third, I like especially the first Sunday in Advent’s focus on our hopeful waiting. It was Lutheran theologian Paul Tillich who once said something like this, regarding hopeful waiting: Our entire relationship with God involves waiting. Unless we wait on God, we cannot know or do anything in accord with God’s will for us. I like that, even though I, like most contemporary human beings run short on patience and waiting from time-to-time!
Life is full of waiting from the cradle to the grave. Yet our society would have us falsely believe that in many cases, we need not wait, we can have what we want instantly. Some things in life cannot be had instantly, nor can they be rushed or fast forwarded, even as much as we’d like them to be. For example, we cannot qualify for the calling of or serve as a pastor at the tender age of six years and a grade one education. Hopeful waiting is necessary.
It is hopeful waiting, since without hope it is very difficult, if not impossible to wait. We need hope to help us realize and accept that even if life stinks and is rotten right now, there is a better future for us. It is hopeful waiting because we can accept the necessity of waiting thanks to the hope given to us through Jesus our Messiah, who one day shall come in all of his fullness to right all wrongs, and bring in that beautiful realm of God where swords shall be beaten into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks, and no one shall learn war anymore.
Until then our hopeful waiting can be a sign to the world of the reality of God’s future realm in all of its fullness insofar as our hopeful waiting bears fruit in the present and reveals itself in our imperfect and provisional thoughts, words and actions of hope, peace, joy and love especially among the least, the last, the lost and the lowest.