by Dr. Carey Vinzant
We have just begun the season of Advent, during which we focus on waiting for the coming of Christ. The act and the experience of waiting are part and parcel of what it means for us to be God’s people. In the Old Testament God’s people awaited the coming of Messiah and the establishment of God’s Kingdom in the world. At Bethlehem the King was born, but His work in establishing the Kingdom did not look the way Jesus’ followers expected it would. Si
meon looked upon the baby Jesus and knew Him to be Messiah, saying:
“My eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before all people to be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of Your people Israel.”
At the same time, Jesus continually frustrated His disciples’ political expectations—He preached the Kingdom of God even as He exhorted His followers to faithfully pay their taxes to the hated Romans. When Jesus was crucified, died, was buried, rose again, and finally ascended again to His Father’s right hand, He left His disciples with the promise that He would return. The phrase “Come, Lord!” emerged in the New Testament and quickly came into the same sort of liturgical use as the Lord’s Prayer. Being followers of Jesus means not only that we emulate Him but also that we long for Him—that we watch for His arrival the way we watch the driveway when we know someone dear to us will soon be pulling up.
All of this presupposes, however, that Jesus is what we want. The life of waiting that comes with being God’s people only makes sense if God Himself is what we want. If what we really want is the set of perks that we think come with being God’s people, things like financial prosperity, emotional highs, or the satisfaction of being “good people,” we will find that waiting distresses, frustrates, and angers us. Those feelings, human as they are, remind us that we have yet to find our completion and the fullness of our satisfaction in God Himself.
In this season of waiting we turn our eyes again to our true situation. We are those who have sat in darkness; indeed, in some ways we do so still. We know that we are God’s people. We trust His promise that He has forgiven us. Still… is that all there is? No—God’s forgiveness is just the gateway to what He has for us. Being God’s people means far more than that we escape His wrath—it means that we find Him faithful to meet every need, whether the need is of the body or of the heart. Being God’s people means that sometimes things we thought we needed were really just things we wanted—distractions from the real issue: Will God make us happy? Is God truly what we want? This gets to the heart of what it means to live by faith.
It all comes down to this question: Who knows best for me? We come into the world thinking that our way will make us happy, that we can chart our own course to a satisfying life. Sooner or later our way falls apart and we hear God’s word to us: “Come home.” We find ourselves having to unlearn much that we thought we knew about how life works so that we can begin to see ourselves and our lives in light of God’s design. This change begins in a moment, but we spend our lives working it out, becoming people who know and feel that God is Who and what we need. We find new challenges that call us to trust Him in ways that we had not considered before.
This transformation of our lives begins with what we learn in Advent: wanting and waiting. As God’s love for us and His goodness to us become real to us, wanting God and waiting for Christ’s return seem to be not an austerity but an awakening to real joy. Come, Lord.