The season of Advent is upon us, and preparations for Christmas are well under way. Trees are trimmed, doors are wreathed, lights are hung, and halls are decked.
The word “advent” literally means “arrival.” Thus, the Advent season is about the coming of the Christ Child, and the less emphasized subject of his eventual return in glory. Advent is a time for planning, preparing, and anticipating a particularly important arrival. It is a season of looking and longing for what – WHO – is to come.
It seems to me, there’s a lot of anticipation and expectation this particular Advent – perhaps more than any I can recall.
During this pandemic, we’ve gained a heightened anticipation for the arrival of the latest Amazon package on our doorstep. Some estimate online shopping and delivery has increased at least 30% during the pandemic, and will surely increase with holiday shopping.
Retailers – online and brick-and-mortar – nervously anticipate sufficient holiday purchases to end 2020 in the black.
Though the outcome of the recent presidential election seems clear to most, we still wait for the Electoral College to submit their votes to finally certify the election, for the January 20, 2021 Presidential Inauguration, and for the work of the new administration to officially begin. Those who voted for our new President anticipate the arrival of desired programs and policies. Those who voted for our current President, anticipate the arrival of a new administration with dread and loathing.
In the meantime, we wait, with cautious optimism, for the current Congress and Administration to pass another stimulus/relief package for struggling businesses, the unemployed, and families in desperate need of assistance and at risk of evictions or foreclosures.
Media outlets report the arrival of much-needed Covid-19 vaccines, anticipating Emergency Use Authorization and distribution within weeks, with phases of vaccinations to follow in the coming months.
Perhaps more than anything, aren’t we all anticipating – or at least hoping for – the arrival and return to some form of normalcy, post-pandemic?
Yes. There’s heightened anticipation and expectations for many things this Advent – politically, socially, economically, medically. Some will arrive, and some won’t. Some will fulfill hopes and expectations, and some won’t. But, we’ve gotten used to disappointment in 2020, haven’t we? Or, have we? Has our patience with disappointment worn thin, leading us to place our hope and faith (good Advent themes) on anything or anyone who can get us out of this mess, or offer some relief, comfort, or distraction, sooner than later!?!?
But, Advent and Christmas aren’t about the arrival of packages, sales-figures, elected officials, stimulus checks, vaccinations, or “normalcy” – as positive as any of those things may be. Advent and Christmas are about the arrival of Christ. And Christ came to offer God’s solution for our broken condition – not economic, political, or scientific.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I shop online, and will buy Christmas presents. I vote, and will prayerful support our new administration. I support economic relief for our economy, and for those in need. When available, and I’m eligible, I will certainly be vaccinated. But, as a person of faith, Advent must be something more – MUCH more! My faith and hope must find a home somewhere other than worldly solutions.
Advent is the hopeful anticipation of the Christ, who came to establish a heavenly kingdom among us; a divine alternative to the kingdoms of this world. A kingdom rooted and established upon the reign of God and Lordship of Christ – not an elected president or administration. A kingdom of fairness and justice, for all. A kingdom of health, wholeness, and abundance, flowing from the goodness of God’s abundance and the faithful, generous stewardship of God’s people. A kingdom of mutual, familial love, expressed in deeds, especially for the most vulnerable. A kingdom of holiness, as a reflection of God’s presence among us. A kingdom of restoration and renewal, rebuilding and re-creating, anticipating the day when Christ will make “all things new.” A kingdom of reconciliation and forgiveness. A kingdom of diversity and inclusion. An eternal kingdom of peace.
Could God be involved in elections, or economic recovery, or political solutions to societal ills, or scientific advancements, or ending this pandemic? Of course! I’d be a heretic to suggest otherwise. God is sovereign, and God’s will and purpose are at work in all things. I’m sure of that.
But, as a person of faith, I also know economics, politics and science have their limits. Otherwise, God would have sent an economist, a retailer, a politician, or a scientist to save the world – or, at least, an Amazon delivery person!
Instead, God sent a child – Emmanuel, God with us – born in poverty and obscurity, fragility and humility, embodying humanity and divinity; to offer and inaugurate a different way of seeing and being in this broken world. Christ came incarnate, crucified, resurrected, and ascended to accomplish what only Christ could and can accomplish, superseding all earthly innovations, philosophies, or powers.
So, in the midst of our many and myriad longings of Advent 2020, let’s not lose sight of the most important arrival. Whatever or whomever else we may desire or long for this year, may none displace or overshadow – in our hearts or minds – the One who is our only true solution and savior.
How are you awaiting Christ’s arrival this Advent?