This year was a year of waiting and longing. We have waited for the pandemic to end. We have waited for self-isolation to lift. We have waited for social and economic normalcy to return. At every turn, uncertainty and insecurity have increased the intensity of our waiting. Many of us have cried out with the psalmist, "How long, O Lord?" (Psalm 13:1, ESV).
The hope of Advent is not based on wishful thinking. It is not grounded in our own ability to make things better.
In the West, we have become accustomed to the immediate satisfaction of our needs. The secular trinity of the economy, medicine, and technology promises to provide for us and protect us from the worst of the world. However, 2020 reminded us just how little is actually in our power to control. This year has reminded us that this world cannot provide everything we need or want in life. As Christians, this past year should remind us of what we are waiting for and whom we are trusting in. A longing for another world is at the heart of Advent (Latin: adventus, Greek: parousia, "arrival"). During the Advent season, we wait for the world not yet fully revealed. First, we prepare to celebrate Christ's arrival in Bethlehem by remembering how God's people longed for His birth. And second, while we rejoice that He has come, we yet yearn for the day when Messiah will come again. For, Christ's first advent brought us victory at the cross, making us heirs of a coming Kingdom, and His second will end this disease-filled world and usher in a new, perfect, and everlasting world—consummating our inheritance.
The hope of Advent is not based on wishful thinking. It is not grounded in our own ability to make things better. Our hope is founded on the promises of God. He has given us a vision of the future in which "‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4). Our broken world does not negate the promise. Our broken lives do not diminish it. God has prepared for us a glorious city (see Hebrews 11:16); it is our job to wait for it to be revealed. We do not wait like impatient children, thrashing about in the store. We wait like Abraham, the man of faith, who took God at His word until the son of promise arrived. We wait with hope.
And we have a trustworthy reason for hope. During a period of military invasion, national destruction, and social insecurity, the prophet Isaiah wrote the famous words, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, . . . And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). Many in Isaiah's day longed for the arrival of this child. Enduring exile in Babylon, the faithful longed for restoration and a return to the land. During the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the people longed for the promises of God to be fulfilled. Righteous men and women like Simeon waited for the "consolation of Israel" with fervent prayer (Luke 2:25). And then right on time, according to God's perfect plan, "[t]he Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14). Here, on this side of the incarnation, on this side of the cross, on this side of the resurrection, we wait with hope.
At Christ's first advent, He entered into our suffering and eclipsed it at the cross. His sacrifice gives us hope to live through our current suffering until He comes again. As Paul writes, "[O]ur light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
This Advent, let us long for His return. Let us rejoice in the hope of Christ's coming and set our eyes on that heavenly city, which He is even now preparing, where we will walk with our loving Savior in glory forever.