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A Word to Advent

“God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)

The world exists in Advent.

Despite the all-too-successful attempts to gloss over the reality of Advent by the various powers-that-be — powers that mercilessly try to seduce us straight from Thanksgiving to Christmas morning — the world exists in Advent. The world waits. The world longs. The world hurts. The world hopes.

The waiting of the world seems more poignant this year. Ukraine, Israel, Palestine all wait — waiting for freedom, waiting for justice, waiting for peace. The earth waits — waiting for healing, waiting for renewal, waiting for rest. Those living on the margins wait — waiting for welcome, waiting to be noticed, waiting for equity and inclusion. Our congregations wait — waiting for new life, waiting for a pastor, waiting for re-engagement. Even we who all-too-often give in to the temptation to ignore Advent wait — waiting for meaning, waiting for something more, waiting for life to somehow get easier than it is.

The world exists in Advent. Waiting.

Waiting with the world in Advent allows us to name what is not right with the world and, instead, to bear witness to the radically new world that, in Christ, already is, even though it is not yet. Waiting with the world in Advent encourages us to challenge the powers-that-be and the false narratives they seek to force upon us and, instead, to share with them the story of a migrant Jew born in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem who instead of taking life from his enemies gives his life for them. Waiting with the world in Advent frees us to neither give in nor give up and, instead, to live by hope, hope both in what is still coming and in what, through Christ, already is.

The world exists in Advent. Waiting.

As Christ’s community in the world, we wait with the world. Indeed, we are the community that has been gifted for the waiting. As St. Paul assures the conflicted Christian community in Corinth, in Christ, we have been gifted with every spiritual gift needed to wait for the One who strengthens us in our waiting (1 Corinthians 1:7). Such giftedness in the midst of the waiting does not free us for passive disengagement from the challenges of the world around us, but rather for active and courageous engagement with the world as we use the gifts we have been given to love and to serve and to build up.

The source of our giftedness for waiting, of course, is not us, but God. “God is faithful;” assures Paul, “by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). It is God’s faithfulness to us, not our faithfulness to God, that empowers us in our waiting. In the words of pastor and theologian Dirk Lange, “Any strengthening of Christ’s testimony, any deepening of the gospel among the Corinthians, is due to God’s faithfulness, to the fact that they have been called by God into this communion. God is at work in this community” (from workingpreacher.org, November 27, 2011). By God’s never-ending faithfulness to us, we are empowered in our waiting to be the God-created, God-gifted community, through whom God bears witness to the coming Advent of Christ into our waiting, longing, hurting, and hoping world. God is faithful, even when we are not.

The world exists in Advent. Waiting. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to be our hope, O Jesus, come to set your people free.
From oppression, come, release us, grant us your true liberty.
Come, release from ev’ry prison those who suffer in our land.
In your love we find the reason still to live and understand.

Come to build your new creation through the road of servanthood;
Give new life to ev’ry nation, changing evil into good.
Come and open our tomorrow for your joyful reign so near.
Take away all human sorrow; give us hope against our fear.

(Jaci Maraschin, All Creation Sings, #904)