Advent—Expectantly Waiting for His Coming

“I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. . .Glory to God in

the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  Luke 2:10,14

Advent is about waiting—an expectant waiting for His coming.  Children can hardly wait to open the next window in the Advent calendar, and certainly can’t wait to open presents on Christmas Day or perhaps Christmas Eve.  For adults, Christmas is often about waiting as well—waiting in check-out lines, waiting in traffic, and waiting for special times with family and friends.  Sometimes the waiting is rewarded, while often disappointment overshadows the longing expectation of peaceful and joy-filled relationships.

While we largely focus upon the birth of Christ during Advent, historically for Christians, Advent has a two-fold focus.  We await the coming of Jesus—both His first revelation as the Baby born in Bethlehem, and His Second Coming on the clouds as King of kings and Lord of lords.  The Latin word from which we get Advent is a translation of the Greek word parousia, which is used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ.

Why is it important to recognize and rejoice in the two-fold meaning of Advent, incorporating both the Incarnation at Christmas and the Second Coming in “the last days”?  It helps us understand and appreciate some of why our expectant waiting remains unfulfilled.  God is not finished with us or our world yet.  The birth of Christ set God’s redemptive plan in place, but all is not accomplished.  We live in the time in between, blessed by the Good News of great joy for all people, but still yearning and waiting for peace on earth among those on whom His favor rests.

The Messianic expectation embraced by God’s people—both Jews and Christians—throughout the ages, looks forward to a time of justice and peace ushered in and made possible by God’s Messiah.

“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.  They will

beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not

take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more.”  

                                                                                                                Isaiah 2:4

But clearly, we’re not there yet!  We live in a day when there is greater hostility and division in our world and our nation than perhaps ever before.  Impeachment hearings, hate crimes, racial and domestic violence, and mass shootings fill our news, crying out with the unavoidable conclusion that peace on earth remains elusive.

It would be easy to dismiss the incessant and vitriolic dissension among people and nations as merely the unmistakable experience of people far from God.  But to our dismay, the reality is that even among Christ followers, interpersonal conflict, sharp disagreements, and broken relationships are far too common.  Legal battles rage between Christian leaders over control and use of properties.  Personnel and ministry changes often result in division and animosity.  Grievances are nursed and held onto, justifying the refusal to forgive and accept other believers despite differences.

Must we wait until the Second Coming of Christ before we experience any peace in our world, our churches and ministries, and our families?  Perhaps there is encouragement and no small dose of optimism that we can gain from the power of Christmas experienced by warring soldiers on the western front on December 24, 1914.  Early in WWI, German soldiers began to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve of 1914 by placing small Christmas trees on their trenches and lighting candles.  Christmas carols were sung and “Merry Christmas” greetings were called out to the enemy soldiers across ‘no-man’s land’ between the opposing trenches.  Initially skeptical, Allied soldiers, both British and French, climbed out of their trenches and walked between the battle lines to shake hands with their German counterparts.  The combatants exchanged gifts, sang carols, and even purportedly played a friendly game of soccer.

While not universal across the western front, and not at all supported by the leadership of both armies, this unofficial truce on Christmas Day of 1914 powerfully speaks to us today that a genuine celebration of Christmas can truly be marked by peace—even in the midst of a brutal conflict, because Christmas celebrates the birth of the Prince of Peace.  If sworn enemies of war can experience peace at Christmas time, surely, we who claim to follow Christ can, with the indwelling power of the Prince of Peace, lay down our defenses and the animosity that causes broken relationships and bitterness, and embrace peace.

May you and I pursue peace and be peace makers in this season as we eagerly await our Lord’s Coming, both as the Christ Child and the Coming King of kings.

“I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. . .Glory to God in

the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  Luke 2:10, 14

 

Rick Miller
President