I like stories with happy endings. And I’ll admit, I like skipping ahead to those parts. I love big romantic endings, where all the unknown and angst and growth seems to be wrapped up in a moment so perfect, you almost forget the process that lead to it. I love the parts of biographies when the aim is accomplished: the cup hoisted, the law passed, the goal achieved. There’s just something about the conclusion that’s so inviting and safe. And resolved.
We like resolution. We celebrate the things that are completed and the stories we can wrap up with neat boxes and bows. We like expediency. We like results. So often, like the kids in the back seat on a road-trip, we just want to know “are we there yet?”
I’m not a huge fan of the in-between. Most days, I’d prefer the idealistic promise of a beginning or the validating conclusion of an ending to the ordinary-ness of the middle. Here’s what I’m coming to realize more and more though: life is a middle space. All of life unfolds in the middle space of uncertainty and unknown and waiting.
So often, I move from the promise of God to Abraham and Sarah to the fulfillment of Isaac’s birth in the space of a few sentences without a second thought. I read the story of Joseph being thrown in prison for a crime he didn’t commit in same space where I read about his favour with the King and promotion to high political standing. I acknowledge the longing in Hannah for a son, but within minutes, read about the life and ministry of Samuel. I, so often, instantly draw a line from the manger to the cross and resurrection, forgetting the thirty years where God himself lived in human flesh, in the backdrop and middle-space before his public ministry.
I’m coming to realize more and more: life is a middle space. All of life unfolds in the middle space of uncertainty and unknown and waiting.
These connections are good, even necessary. But stories are most often told with the advantage of hindsight. And, looking back, the space between the here and the not yet appears shorter than it actually was. I think the space in-between is really important. And, that’s why I think Advent is really important.
In a lot of ways, advent establishes the context of the grand narrative that is the gospel. In the midst of seemingly unrelenting darkness and creation groaning for restoration, hope comes. Set against the backdrop of promises and prophecies, hope finally arrives.
I love that.
I love the big picture redemption and restoration that God is weaving throughout history. I immediately want to jump to the happy ending: because the ending is just. that. good. I want to celebrate the sacrificial generosity of a God who came to rescue. I want to look straight to Jesus’ victory over death. In a lot of ways, I want to skip straight ahead to Christmas Day or even turn Advent into Easter. I just want to look past the up-and-down, day-to-day realities of life and be caught up in the promise of the Saviour who will come again and make all things right. But the beauty of Advent, I think, lies as much in the acknowledgement of the process of waiting as it does in the celebration of its beautiful resolution.
Advent is an invitation, amidst at the busyness of life and the preparation of the Christmas season to meet with God in the space of the unresolved and the unknown. It’s a space to acknowledge that the process of waiting is actually a really beautiful place where God’s presence becomes real to us.
Advent is an acknowledgement that the waiting is hard. It requires clinging to God’s unwavering character amidst circumstances that seemed to stand in opposition to His heart. This isn’t a waiting that is passive or resigned. This is a waiting that is active and creative and bold. A waiting that requires labouring with love and living with radical generosity. It’s the action steps of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly. And so we wait in eager expectation for what will be. We can dream together and do all that we do with urgency and love.
Amidst the waiting, as we are continually and increasingly aware that things are not as they should be, advent creates the space to acknowledge that it’s not okay. But, it will be. Because He who promised is faithful. Because, He’s here. He’s at work, redeeming all things to Himself. And the fullness of renewal is coming.
I don’t just love advent, I need advent. I need to be reminded that the story of God’s redemptive love didn’t just unfold in a neat and tidy pre-packaged progression. It wasn’t a story with a chronology that was immediate or even logical. The story of redemption and restoration and incarnation was messy. It is messy. And long. And lined with a lot of scenic detours and imperfect, stumbling people.
I need the reminder of God’s sufficiency across the ages. I need to learn to savour the presence of God in the midst of life’s messiness. Right here. Right now. In the 24-hour-space of today. In the midst of all the spaces of brokenness and injustice that scream, “this is not how things should be!”
With all the lighting of candles and the shimmering lights of the Christmas season, I need to be reminded, over and over again, that God has not forgotten all that is lost and broken. He has not abandoned us to the darkness, nor will the darkness ever win.
Hallelujah, Come Lord Jesus.