There is a common image in the Downing home when we are having someone over for dinner. The image itself is predicated by the act of preparation—getting the house ready, cooking a meal, and setting the table. But after the preparations are done, there is only one thing left to do.
For the three Downing children, this waiting often becomes three faces pressed against the glass of our large front window that looks out on the road. This is the image that comes to my mind when I think of expectation—of the necessary preparations and the anticipation of waiting.
I can’t help but think of Advent in such a way. The word Advent itself comes from the Latin word meaning “arrival”. Throughout most of church history, the season of Advent marks the beginning of the church’s calendar. It is a season when we look at the “arrival” of the Word made flesh, as he came to us cloaked in humility and lowliness—born of a virgin in obscurity, in a stable in Bethlehem. It is also a season when we remember that this lowly child was God’s Messiah—the one through whom he would fulfill his purpose of salvation and restoration in all the world.
Yet, we also remember in this season that our world has not yet experienced the fullness of his saving grace. We see the brokenness and hurt of our world, the injustice and darkness that continue to prevail—and we look toward the day when he will again “arrive” to our world. Not as a lowly child, born in obscurity, but as the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords who will once and for all eradicate darkness from this world. This is what we train our hearts to expect at Advent.
But expectation is not passive.
Expectation demands preparation, and it also produces waiting. Like my sons, with faces pressed against the glass, we show that true waiting is not passive boredom, but rather an active anticipation. We await the arrival of our Lord leaned forward, preparing, and full of excited longing.
This Advent season we will intentionally train our hearts to look for and love the day of Christ’s coming in our services. We will do this by looking back to how God promised to send a Savior to bring restoration to the world, and by looking forward to the coming day when he will restore all things.
Whatever you choose to do this season, take the time to intentionally prepare and wait. Celebrate that God has fulfilled his promises in Christ Jesus, lament the darkness we still experience in this world, and take heart in the promise of Christ’s second arrival that is our blessed hope. Ask God to fill your heart with rapt expectation and longing—that we might look for and live in light of his coming.
Until he comes,