Let me say off top. This isn’t a piece about 2020/21 – its highs, lows, pandemic, revolution, election, and everything in between. This is about the friction of living in the already and the not yet. It’s about waiting.
I spent this Advent season (the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas where we pause each day in December to reflect on why Jesus came) focused on hope. Each week was supposed to have a different theme, according to my devotional, but I couldn’t get beyond hope. This year, more than ever, we needed hope. I spent many days somewhere between extreme gratitude and hope for a better future. That’s the chasm we, as Christians, live in. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ coming into a world in desperate need of saving hope, while we anticipate His second coming to a people longing for His glorious rescue. We are excited to know that when we needed the physical presence of God, He wrapped Himself in humanity and chose a young, poor, immigrant to carry His presence from eternity into time. We delight in knowing that before He returned to the right hand of our Father in Heaven, He left His presence with us to guide, comfort and empower us while we wait for His return (Acts 2:8).
That’s what we’re doing: waiting.
Luke 2 doesn’t describe the birth one might expect for the King of all kings. It’s the story of a triumphant entry by way of poverty, homelessness, and darkness. He came close to us. Jesus came near when we needed Him. He’s still near. His presence is deep and abiding and moved by our inconsolable grief. He’s present. He’s involved. He is with you. He is hope made flesh and drawn to you. I cannot emphasize this enough. God is near to you. Do you want to know why I’m so sure? Because I’ve sat in a fog of loneliness and abandonment. It’s because I’ve been drunk on my own vanity and self-image. It’s because when I was left to my own devices, God met me there. I didn’t have to get better, be better, do better before He came close to me. The Bible is filled with instances where Jesus went TOWARD the dying, the sick, the suffering and the lost. He comforted them with His very presence and power. He came as hope into hopelessness and proclaimed hope to a people that couldn’t see past despair. We are those people.
In the Garden of Eden, He walked with Adam and Eve,
In the wilderness, He was with the children of Israel and led them to the promised land.
In their captivity, He tabernacles with Israel.
After captivity, He built His temple to dwell among them.
In the Gospels, He lived with and among the disciples as a physical manifestation of God’s presence on Earth.
In Acts, He gave us His Holy Spirit to be with us.
He’s never left. He never will, even while we wait.
If you’re joyous, there’s hope for greater joy to come.
If you’re lonely, there’s hope for the presence of God to fill your life.
If you’re grieving, there’s hope for an eternity without death and loss.
If you’re celebrating, there’s hope for a celebration without end.
If you’re grateful, there’s hope for even more to be grateful for.
If you’re broke and broken, there’s hope for provision and wholeness.
If you’re hopeless, there’ hope that came to Earth just for you.
If you’re in sin, there’s hope in a savior who identifies with your afflictions.
Not feeling Christmas this year? That’s cool. You’re in good company. The Spirit of Christmas is not gifts, decorations, and warm feelings. The Spirit of Christmas is a response to the groanings of the world. I’m not talking about wishing for something better. I’m not talking about manifesting a future full of tangible things to fill your homes and life. I’m talking about a screeching in our lives that can only be consoled with a Jesus that came into the world as He did. He came with a ransom on His head, was mistreated and unwelcomed in his homeland, suffered greatly for a cause others mocked Him for. He came for us.
Jesus is our treasure. He’s our great reward. If this year has taught us anything, it’s that at the end of every day, He is all-in-all. There’s no hope found outside of hope in Christ. This truth is the truth worth sharing, worth enduring for and worth remembering. Tell the world that, amidst its decay, it’s already been saved. And if you belong to Jesus, you’re just waiting….in abundant, bountiful hope.
Why did the angel of the Lord in Luke 2:9 refer to the birth of Jesus as “news of great joy that will be for all the people”? The angel knew that the birth of Christ wasn’t just for the people at that time. His coming was for all of us. He came for those then and is coming again for us now. He gave us His Spirit while we wrestle in period of the already and the not yet. Though He came and is coming again, He is here with us. Matthew 1:23 calls Jesus “Immanuel,” which means God with us. He is, indeed, with us. With me. With you. In famine. In harvest. The thrill of hope is here. Joy to the world. The Lord is come.
Waiting in hope,