Near & Far by Pastor Scott
Many assume that Advent and Christmas are the same thing - but you know better. Christmas is the story of Christ’s birth - an angelic choir, a guiding star, a manger and magi - all part of a specific event. Christ is born! But Advent is the story of waiting - months, years and centuries of waiting for that event. Christmas proclaims God is with us. Advent whispers that God is coming. Those truths are not contradictory. God is both present and approaching. He is always Emmanuel - God with us. But we may lack the awareness or an effect of His nearness. So, we pray to our Lord who is near, “Come to us!”
Each of us experience an Advent - and not just for Christmas. We are looking for God to show up for us. We are hoping in His promise - even if it seems slow in coming. Our Advent experiences are not simply the flip of calendar days. Our times of waiting are nurseries and classrooms for faith. It’s where faith is born and nurtured. How does Advent nurture faith?
Advent times release us from our flawed notion of control. Most of us wait by trying to make the expectation happen. We try to hurry it along. Of course, no matter how many times you look at your watch, you can’t make the bus come faster. Advent seasons confirm our dependence upon the ways and will of God. God will arrive to our need with grace to our prayers, but the initiative is His. Advent teaches me the surrender of my agenda and timetable to His wisdom.
Advent refines our desires. Children may ask for something with intensity, but even a few moments of delay have the power to shift their attention to something else. I can be the same. God hears me and then tarries for a time so I may examine my desires. The longings which survive the Advent are rooted in my soul. God’s arrival is not instant, so that my heart may be enlarged.
Advent forces us to do battle with doubt and fear. The time of our anticipation is clouded with, “What if?” and “Why not?” Doubt has little voice when everything is instant and immediate. But when God walks us through months or years of looking but not finding - doubt’s voice becomes loud. I can only address the voice if there is space for it to be heard. Advent grants me that space.
Advent is room for faith to grow. All growth happens over time. What is true of our bodies is true of our souls. We can’t be in a hurry even though we want to be! God will increase our faith and solidify our hope - but He does it in the delays of living. He walks us through Advent and invites our trust; a trust that is stretched and deepened to fill the days until He comes. And He does come. Every Advent has a Christmas.