Thinking of all the things we wait for in life--waiting for graduation from high school or college, waiting for marriage, waiting for the birth of a child. But think for a moment of Advent, which means waiting. For thousands of years before the birth of the Messiah, men and women waited for it. Hebrews speaks of "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised." (11: 39) All those years, waiting for God to break in, waiting for Him to intervene in the ways of humans. Yet, all those faithful barely knew what they were waiting for. Though prophecies about the Messiah began in the earliest scripture, those prophecies were, of course, dim. There was mystery about the entrance into humanity by God Himself.
But in His perfect time, God Himself embodied in human form, breathed the air of this world exactly as we do. "In the beginning God..." Genesis says. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God." Begins John 1. Between the two are thousands of years of advent, in a way. Even in the first chapter of Genesis, there is the Word, "Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness..." (Gen. 1:26). Just as John tells us, He--the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us--is a part of creating us. When He assumes human nature and flesh, blood and skeleton, He was the very same One who had first created that our form and nature. I love this--that Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Earth--already knew what it would mean to confine Himself to a human skeleton because He had made us even in our physicality.
Advent, which we celebrate each December, is our chance to participate in what humans lived all those years on earth. It's our opportunity to live metaphorically in the absence of Jesus, to live "Before Christ." To wait, and wait expectantly for God to put Himself into the most fragile and dependent of Creatures, a human baby. It's true, He didn't simply incarnate Himself as a grown man, who could feed, dress and care for Himself. This is what we wait for. We have it easier than those who lived B.C., though. We know the end of the story before we begin to wait for it each year. But what if we lived this month in the presence of the absence of Incarnate God? I've often thought that it's an odd thing that we deprive ourselves from things during Lent, when that's a season (before His passion) that He was living and breathing and walking around in His public ministry. That feels like a season of Presence to me, not of Absence. But Advent--the vigil of watching for Him--is the season of absence. Isn't it? The story of Jesus on earth is a story populated with real live people who came to faith (or not) without knowing the the full story, the fulfillment of the Promise of Messiah. Some of them had lived in the emptiness of a world without Him until the very last moment. Some were mistaken in who they thought was coming, but all of them met this man who was God, and their lives were never the same.
So I propose that together--me writing, you reading, us all listening to Him--we take a walk together through the gospels, visit each day with a person who met and responded to Jesus, one way or another. Will you? Will you consider with me how His real life as the Man who was also God impacts our living and breathing and walking-around lives? Live with me in this season, in quiet and darkness, even, as we wait for the Light of the world.