Advent vs. Christmas

The call of Advent is a call to slow down. It is not Christmas – at least not yet. Advent demands patience, to slow down our urgent pace, even to trust in the Lord when dark is our road and confusing our path. Advent is a call, not to push the Lord along, but to wait on Him and await His revelation at the right time, at the ripened moment, when the time is fruitful.

But who wants to wait? That almost sounds un-American. Life is short. The world moves fast. Amid all the hassles of life, is God going to give one more burden? Is He telling us to wait on His timing, to trust in Him when everything around us seems to be godless and as if He isn’t doing anything about it? Why this waiting?

We wait because, on our own, we are sojourners who need direction. We wait for Christ because He knows the way. Only He can lead us where we need to go. He is the author, the pioneer, the Firstborn of those who will follow Him. And so, we wait for the One who knows the way.

We wait on the Lord, no matter what the circumstances of our lives. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter was so full of himself when he wanted to camp there and not leave. We don’t get to climb our own mount of Transfiguration to wait for the Lord to finish His new creation. We wait right where we are: In our marriage, within our families, as workers in a job, and as citizens of our communities. We wait where we are, doing what we do as a vocation from the Lord. We wait for the Lord to come and finish His new creation.

If this is true, and it is, then what does all this mean? We can’t always avoid suffering and trial, as long as we wear the frailties of our fallen human flesh; the marks of life’s struggles will be our lot as we bear the scars of the past and the bleeding wounds of our fallen mortality. We do weep over life’s weariness we cannot understand, and over what has made us so appallingly alone in a world filled with people.

Through it all, we wait. Lack of faith says, “Now, now Lord!” But faith says, “What God has told me is enough.” And so, faith waits for the fullness of God’s grace and mercy to unfold when He says “Yes,” even when our hearts and eyes tell us, “No.”

Every year, Advent trains us to wait for the manger. Every year, Lent trains us to wait for the empty tomb. And we have looked into the empty tomb. We have seen God’s work in the past! Because of that, we can wait for the revealing of His great mercy and grace when He comes again to bring this world to an end, giving us a new heaven and a new earth. The waiting will be worth it! He has met us in the baptismal water. He meets us in the absolution. He meets us in the bread that is His body and the cup that is His blood. And He will meet us on the Last Day.

God is training us to wait for eternity beyond the Last Day. Then, in both body and soul, we will spend an endless day with God. God is training us to wait for His Son’s return on the Last Day. Because we have received the grace given to us in the Word and Sacraments, we wait for Christ to finish His new creation, to fulfill our hopes, and to unveil in its finality our future in Him.

That is why we need the Advent and Lent training ground. They are not just seasons we have to endure. They have a Godly purpose. They are more than seasons of penitence when we remember our need to repent. They are seasons to train our hearts and minds to live by God’s time clock, not out own. Society tempts us to combine Advent with Christmas, and Lent with Easter. We must resist the temptation to sabotage the work God desires to do in us during these seasons of waiting.

Advent and Lent train us, not to presume, but to live by faith. We can’t work everything out ourselves. If we could do that, then we could save ourselves. But we can’t. So, we, instead, place our confidence in the grace of God, revealed through Christ our Savior, made known to us in the Holy Spirit.

You have God’s grace to guide you through each day. You have His presence and peace as your constant companions on the way. You have the record of God’s words kept, of His works revealed in the past. So be patient. God always comes through on His promises! God has all the rest covered.

When you realize that, Advent is no longer a hindrance, but a blessed time of patient preparation. For God is at work, even when He bids us wait to celebrate later. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:20) Amen.

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