By Pastor Nathan Clements, American Lutheran Church
A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse; a branch will sprout from his roots. The Lord’s spirit will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of planning and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. He will delight in fearing the Lord. He won’t judge by appearances, nor decide by hearsay. He will judge the needy with righteousness, and decide with equity for those who suffer in the land.
~ Isaiah 11:1-4a CEB
Advent marks the beginning of a new year for denominations that follow the liturgical calendar, and we begin the year by waiting. Advent is a season when we step back a little, reflect, pray, and hope. We hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus. But waiting and hoping isn’t very easy or glamorous, is it? Especially since we know that December 25th will be Christmas. We know it’s coming, and we know exactly when it will be.
Our time of waiting today is very different compared to Isaiah’s time of waiting. The Messiah has already come into this world; we are no longer living with the wonder of how the Messiah would arrive. We know that God chose to become flesh in the form of baby born in Palestine. We know that this baby had humble roots, that he descended from God’s covenant people. We know that this baby would preach and teach and feed and heal. And ultimately, we know that this baby would be betrayed by his friend, be mocked and persecuted, and be killed for teaching that God is love. We know these things, so why do we wait this Advent season?
We wait because it’s all about time. But not our time, or our sense of time. Rather, it’s about God’s time. We would never have enough time to fully prepare ourselves for Christ’s arrival, and the four weeks of Advent certainly isn’t long enough either. And perhaps that’s the point. Christ arrives into our lives whether we are prepared or not. Christ arrives into our lives according to God’s time.
So we begin the liturgical year with waiting, and keeping awake and alert, for Christ’s birth on Christmas day, and for Christ’s return on the last day. We wait because we proclaim a God whose love for us is farther and deeper than we could possibly understand. We proclaim a God who created us and continues to create through us. We proclaim a God who fashioned us as God’s people, who taught us, as one of us, to live in community. We proclaim a God who has promised to return to us in the person of Christ, according to God’s own time, to judge the living and the dead. We wait, because we recognize none of this is our own doing. If it was, we would try to hurry it up, or slow it down. We would try to make good on our resolutions, trying to change ourselves to be better, or healthier, or more compassionate people just in time for the ball to drop marking Christ’s return.
But that’s not how it works. We do not know the hour. And so we wait. And in our waiting we live, and love, and pray as Christ taught us, so that when the time does come, we may be ready according to God’s time and not our own. Come Lord Jesus, we pray. Help us to be ready for your arrival at your time. Amen.