The word advent is used to signify the arrival of a notable person or event. For Christians, that notable person is Jesus and the notable event is His birth. Christmas tells the story of His first advent while Jesus Himself spoke of His second advent in the future. This month, as we enter Advent season, we are entering a time of waiting for both arrivals. But it is much more than that. It is a protest.
This became acutely clear to me in a recent visit to a Christmas tree lighting in a local town. I'm not sure what Heidi and I expected, but what greeted us was a titanic mass of humanity streaming down sidewalks, massive screens blaring tunes about Santa, shops overloaded with throngs of customers, and a general sense of frenzy. Christmas season feels this way for many of us, a time of overwhelming busyness and fluster. For others though, it's a time of increasing sadness and darkness. For still others, they may wade through the advertising and parties and mall trips, only to feel let down when it's all over.
But Advent calls us to protest all this by doing what seems impossible, or at least impractical.
Advent calls us to wait.
Simeon was a man who knew how to wait (Luke 2:25-35). The text says that "he was waiting for the consolation of Israel" when Jesus was brought to the temple as a baby. The Holy Spirit had already revealed to him that he would see the Messiah before he would die. When he first gazed at the child, he was immediately caught up in an updraft of praise. The wait was over. He had seen the Wonder of the ages and was ready to die. This posture of waiting is also assumed for all believers in the New Testament. Hear Paul's words: "Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies" (Rom. 8:23). We are to wait with our longings hung out in the open, anticipating the great good that is coming.
But as a rule, we dislike waiting. I dislike it when a red light interrupts my drive. I dislike it when answers to emails don't come quickly. I dislike it when someone doesn't show up on time. We are all conditioned to hurry and demand immediate relief. The Christmas season only exacerbates those tendencies.
But if we enter the protest and wait in silence, what happens? I'm afraid it's not a pretty sight at first. All of the things pressing on us to do will come to the surface. Once we push those away, some of the deeper things then surface: sins, fears, longings, disappointments. But if we will stay quiet long enough, something else will happen. The One for whom we wait will show up. The living Christ will come and meet us. He will be the Consolation for our souls.
This Christmas is a chance for all of us to protest. Enter the silence and wait for Him. Wait for the hope of Advent, the hope of the world.
Rest assured, He will come.