First Sunday of Advent
Advent is a season of waiting, of anticipation of the coming of our God. Scripture is replete with people of faith waiting, longing for, and growing impatient with God’s perceived slowness. Israel’s history seems to be one crisis after another, followed by her crying in distress for her God to respond to her. People of faith have had to maintain their convictions in the face of others and perhaps even their own thoughts that looked at the amount of time that had passed and wondering or even proclaiming that God would not fulfill His promises.
In the birth narratives of Jesus, we read of people who have been faithfully waiting for God to visit them through their entire adult lives, and we read in other passages that even angels and perhaps the entire creation have been waiting for the culmination of the ages.
The passage this week, Jeremiah 23.1-8 contains a promise of God’s restoring of things to their rightful order. In this passage, Israel’s shepherds, her kings and other officials are identified as the cause of Israel’s current problems. They have not shepherded God’s people in the right ways and as a result they will go into exile. Even so, God promises to provide His people with good shepherds and even the Good Shepherd Himself so that His people will be led, protected, and fed in the right ways; in the good ways.
The Branch of David will come as the Great King to rule, to serve, to protect, and to lead the people of God. But, as Jeremiah is prophesizing this day is far off. Before this day can come, Israel must spend almost two generations in exile with her country desolate and her capital city and the temple destroyed.
No doubt there were many who witnessed or who heard of the destruction who wondered if God would ever bring the Branch. Those who waited would wait a very long time for the Branch to come. In our day, we wait for the coming of God; for the final consummation of the ages. We hear promises of no tears, of no illness, and no decay. We hear promises of reunion, of dead raised, of new bodies and full health in the very
presence of God.
And yet the world seems to go on just as it always has. Even in times when religious folk seem to be in charge we glimpse that the fallen reality behind the façade has not changed. In the “real” world, cheating, biting, dishonesty, and self-promotion continue unabated. What we see around us are disasters, famine, poverty, broken lives and relationships, and even in ourselves the striving for the “good life” which may or may not match the God life.
And so we wait and in waiting we join the history of God’s people who have waited, who have hoped against hope, and who have remained faithful to His promise and to their promise. During the season of Advent we remember both their waiting and ours for the coming of our God in healing, restoring, and enlivening our lives with Him.
As we light the Advent candles these next four weeks, let us renew our own wonder of our God who chose to break into the world; who became the Incarnate One to truly be Our Righteousness.
How has the delay of God affected your faith? Has it tested your patience; made you ask “what is all this for?”
As we join with believers throughout history and around the world in anticipating the coming of God, what might help you to join that expectant people who wait for Him?
Often God calls His people to cleansing, to a re-commitment, to greater faith. What could you and your family do to keep your faith more alive in the coming year?