I wonder if you remember waiting for Christmas when you were a child. The waiting seemed endless, and the days dragged. When parents tried to comfort us with “just eight more sleeps ‘til Christmas”, the words were meaningless. All we could think about was the wait! Even though the tree was up and the decorations hung, it wasn’t the ‘real’ Christmas until the day itself.
As we get older, and more experienced with waiting, it seems a bit easier to manage. If we are looking forward to an event, we can experience joy in the waiting, as well as in the real event. The waiting is a time of excitement, of anticipation, and some mental preparation, as well as a time of practical hands-on preparation for the event.
In Advent, the church focuses on waiting and preparing for the coming Kingdom of God. In the lead-up to Christmas, it may seem as though we are waiting for Christmas, waiting to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. But Advent is so much more. We recall the prophecies of old, we celebrate that after a time of waiting, God was faithful and came among us as a humble baby. We give thanks for what Jesus was able to achieve in his ministry and on the cross, and most significantly, we celebrate and anticipate the future fulfilment of God’s kingdom.
If we believe that we are still waiting for God’s coming kingdom, the waiting time could seem to be wasted time, a time of impatience or doubt, when we can do nothing to change or hasten the anticipated ‘event’. But if we understand that the reign of Christ has already begun, though it is far from complete, we can live as though Christ’s kingdom was here now. Paul encourages us to stop living as if we are in the dark, and be ready to live in the light.
How do we live in the light, as if the expected coming has already happened? We live with hope for the time when Christ’s love will encompass the whole world, and as a joyful preview of the kingdom, we live by the Kingdom values of love and forgiveness, justice and mercy.