Amazingly, Advent has begun again in earnest. Advent is a season of waiting, and the way we celebrate it reveals what we are most interested in. Unfortunately, since I was a kid I’ve viewed Advent as a countdown to Christmas: only two more candles to go until we open presents! And I get the impression that many Christians feel the same. Most of us look forward to the holidays, to spending extra time with family, to feasting and to cozy winter nights. But Christmas day cannot but be a letdown after “waiting” for it for a whole month. And don’t give me that argument that it’s for the kids. My kids are just as likely to throw a tantrum on Christmas as on any other day. More likely, probably. Perhaps the words of Charlie Brown resonate with you as they do with me: “I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that. But I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.”
The question is, what are we actually waiting for? Are we waiting for Jesus to be born? He was born, 2000 years ago – we don’t need to wait for that anymore. Are we waiting for him to come into our hearts, whatever that means? If you are a Christian then Jesus is already with you. In fact, you are already reigning with him in heaven, as Colossians 3 says. You don’t need to wait for that, either. Are you waiting for your sins to be forgiven? Done. For the power to overcome sin? You have it. For the promised Holy Spirit? He’s been given.
Are you waiting for Jesus to return? Aha, now we’re on to something. This is what the saints of old thought they were waiting for. That is, before Jesus was born the Israelites were waiting for the Messiah to come, to defeat their enemies and usher in an age of peace. They were right to do so, for Isaiah 9 says “to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.”
That’s why godly Simeon, when Jesus was brought to the temple to be dedicated, was “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” That is, he was waiting for Isaiah 40 to happen, when God would comfort Israel, and when “every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”
What Simeon probably did not realize was that this Messiah himself would be the one, as Isaiah 53 says, who would be “pierced for our transgressions.” That he would die, rise again and ascend into Heaven. And that he would promise to come again.
So if we are to engage in any kind of waiting this Advent season, I suggest we put less emphasis on the waiting for Jesus’ birth stuff. Of course it’s important that he was born, that he took on flesh and became like us, so that he could suffer the punishment that we deserve. But that already happened. We can celebrate it, but we don’t need to wait for it anymore. We are waiting for his return. We are waiting for him to create the new heavens and the new earth. We are waiting for the dwelling of God to be with man. We are waiting for the end of death, mourning, crying and pain. We are waiting to see God’s face. “Behold, I am coming soon” Jesus says, “my reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12). If there is anything worth waiting for, that’s it. Come, Lord Jesus.