Happy New Year!
Advent is upon us again. In preparation for the season, I had the opportunity to sit down with Pastor Jason Miller of South Bend City Church to talk at length about the history and practices of Advent. During this conversation, we discuss how Advent leads Christians into actively wrestling with the darkness in our world.
Unlike Lent, where fasting and praying are centered on repentance, Advent is an invitation to confront the injustice, evil, and brokenness in our world and in ourselves with the holy expectation of God’s coming. Why do we look longingly for Christ’s return at the beginning of Advent? Despite the carols declaring “Joy to the world” and “Peace on earth,” there is often little joy or peace to be found. Bombs drop, cars drive into protesters, children go hungry, mothers die for lack of pre-natal care, lone gunmen open fire on concert-goers and Sunday worshipers, powerful men assault and harass those around them, families are broken, our own minds and bodies turn against us.
Recognizing the darkness that continues to bind our world, Advent creates space to
acknowledge that God’s work of redemption is not yet finished. It is a time for collectively crying out with the Psalmist, “Stir up your might and save us” and with Isaiah, “O that you would rend the heavens and come down!” But Advent also gives us permission to wait, even in the darkness, for God to come. It is a season that teaches us to keep watch over this broken world and pray for it, without making facile promises of speedy remedies. And Advent calls us to the certain hope that God will break though the darkness that binds our world. As surely as Christmas Day will dawn and we will celebrate Jesus birth, he will come again to finish the work of redemption he begun so long ago in Bethlehem.