“I wait for your salvation, O Lord.” Genesis 49:18
If 2020 has been a year of anything, it has been a year of waiting. Waiting for a global pandemic to be over. Waiting for a vaccine for COVID-19. Waiting to see loved ones again. Waiting to gather once again in our churches and let our voices ring out with singing.
It has also not been a year of patiently waiting. People have gotten frustrated with stay-at-home orders, being told not to sing in church, being told not to gather with friends and family for important events. Some have even openly defied the advice of medical professionals. Some with tragic consequences.
We long for a return to normalcy, a return to gathering once again in our homes, churches, restaurants, and other public spaces. We long to be able to go to the grocery store without fear of getting a life-threatening illness or fear that the store will not have the toilet paper we so desperately need. Such a simple task, gathering food and other household supplies, has become something fraught with health risk, stress, and anxiety over our ability to gather that which we need.
Throughout the Bible we are reminded to wait on God:
- “The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” Lamentations 3:25–26.
- “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” Micah 7:7
- “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” Galatians 5:5
- “Be patient, therefore, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.” James 5:7
Israel waited for God’s salvation from slavery in Egypt and salvation from the Babylonian exile. Ever since His ascension, followers of Jesus have been waiting for His second advent. Since the fall in Genesis, the universe has been waiting for God to set everything right.
We look around at how things are currently and know it is not right. We know that we should not live in fear of going to the grocery store, going to visit grandparents, or singing together in church. We long for things to not just go back to normal but hope that the new normal will be somehow better than the old normal. We are waiting for God to be God.
Today marks the beginning of Advent 2020. If any year needs Advent, it is 2020. Advent is a season in tension. We live in the tension of what some scholars have called “already, but not yet.” We live in a time when the Kingdom of God is already here, but it has not yet arrived in fullness.
We know on a cosmic scale that everything is not how God had originally intended. We know that as humans we constantly sin, hurt one another, and fail to live up to God’s calling on our lives, yet God has promised that one day everything will be set right. God promised centuries ago through his prophet John:
“‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”
Yet this is not the reality we live with. God has not yet made all things new. God has not returned to dwell among us. God has not set all things right. It can be painful waiting for God to return. It is frustrating waiting for a vaccine that will allow us to venture out again without fear of contracting COVID-19. So many things we are waiting for on a cosmic and personal scale to be set right by the coming of our God.
Advent, above anything else, is a season of longing and preparation. We long for the day when Jesus will return and set all things right. We also engage in preparation for that day. As followers of Jesus, we are not supposed to be passively waiting for Jesus to return. No, we are to be about the work of Jesus now, on earth. We are His hands and feet, reaching out with His love to a lost and broken world. Right now, the world desperately needs to feel the love of Jesus. Rather than simply looking at Advent as a countdown to Christmas, live into the tension of Advent. Press into the waiting, longing, and lament over the current reality of things. Reach out to a broken and hurting world with the love of Jesus, who calls us to serve the hurting, outcast, and unloved. Live, serving Jesus during a global pandemic as He has called us to live everyday:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31–46
And when Christmas arrives, celebrate the birth of Jesus as a promise fulfilled. One that gives hope that His future promises will also be fulfilled. He came once. He will come again.
 Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2004), 190-191.