Advent is a season of slowness for this weary world.
Growing up, I associated “Advent” primarily with cardboard calendars full of chocolate and partridges in pear trees. According to the traditional calendar of the Christian year, it actually means something very different. The season of Advent marks the beginning of the calendar and is far from the Hallmarkian “most wonderful time of the year.” The emphasis of this season is on waiting – waiting for the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus and for the day we will celebrate his return. It’s a season for simplifying our lives and removing distractions.
The book of Isaiah is written to people who are waiting. The people of Israel, in the middle of their exile to a foreign land, had rebelled against God and were distracted by idols of their own making. They went along with their religious ceremonies, but in their hearts they did not truly recognize the Lord. Throughout Isaiah, God promises both judgment and hope in Israel’s future. He promised to send a Servant who would bear sin in their place. For those who ignored Him, the judgment would be final, but for those who listened and understood, hope was assured.
In the time before the events of the New Testament, the Jewish people waited in anticipation of this Messiah. Though they had returned home, they were still in a spiritual exile. As we look back in time through the lens of the Gospel, we know that they were waiting for Jesus! In many ways, we do the same thing today.
Waiting is, by nature, drawn out. One of my favorite Christmas songs, “O Holy Night”, captures this well: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining.” Advent is a season of slowness for this weary world. Just as trees are shedding their leaves this month, it’s a time for us to drop the distractions we cling to. It’s easier to listen for God’s voice in the quiet. Advent reveals our own idolatry and encourages us to repent.
In our repentance, we also rejoice! We remember why Jesus came in the first place: to redeem the people and bring peace only God can provide. This is not for Israel (or for the church) alone! As we join in the work of the Servant Jesus, we get to share the light to all nations. Advent emphasizes compassion and generosity. Isaiah writes that the people “shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace” – this is how we witness to the world with our waiting. As Isaiah 55 describes, God’s word is intended to reach all people, and it will accomplish its purpose. One day we will see Him glorified before all the earth. Until then, we wait.
In the meantime, our Christ’s Church family has the chance to partner with local ministries through generosity. Our Christmas Impact this month will focus on Watered Gardens and LifeChoices. These organizations administer the compassion and hope of Jesus to people who desperately need it. As we wait through this season, I invite you to consider how you might share the joy of Christ with others. If you would like to join the church in Christmas Impact, you can visit https://cco.church/impact/ for more information.