Thursday, December 3, 2020

Something Greater to Come

The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, who look forward to something greater to come. For these, it is enough to wait in humble fear until the Holy One himself comes down to us, God in the child in the manger. God comes. The Lord Jesus comes. Christmas comes. Christians rejoice!

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, sermon given on December 2, 1928
This year I see people drawn to Advent more than ever before. We are troubled souls seeking solace, a place to lay our grief, our anxiety, our worry, our longing. Scripture is filled with stories of calamity and chaos, waiting and fear. While this year may seem to us unparalleled, it has not been a surprise to God. Just as He knows every wayward heart that led to the Flood, every brick the Israelite slaves laid in Egypt, every pluck of the harp as David cried out the Psalms, He knows and sees us taking one step at a time in humble fear. Through all the pain, perhaps this year has provided some necessary perspective. For as Bonhoeffer advises, Advent blossoms more fully in our hearts when we are yearning for “something greater to come.”

In 2016, I wrote these words, which appear on Day 1 of my collection of Advent reflections. As my family gathered on Zoom to chat, play some games, and mark the first night of Advent, my mom read this selection. It resonated loudly. Perhaps we need to hear it again:
Advent is a time when we can climb into the pain with those who are hurting; kneel beside those who are weeping; scream at the injustice of it all; question God’s timing . . . and then stand up, re-read the message of the prophets, and look upward with expectation. We can trace Christ’s lineage from its humble, broken, weary beginnings, and see the residue of God’s faithful plan in each life He touched. The best part, is that He holds our lives as dearly as He held Jacob’s, and Ruth’s, and David’s, and Hezekiah’s. Their story is our story this Advent. We have all walked in deep darkness, but on us, a great Light shines.
As we celebrate Advent this year, may we embrace our roles as weary, weak, and flawed and inhabit the story of Christ’s incarnation in such a way that we become signposts for the Light. Signposts for God’s work, here on Earth. And signposts for the greatest Advent, the Advent still to come.


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