Last night, I heard Olive pray her first Advent prayer: Dear Jesus, we wait for you to come. Come Lord Jesus. It’s weird to hear a three year old pray this, mainly because I hardly understand Advent myself. But I do know it represents the season of waiting. We want to rush as fast as we can to the manger, but Advent asks that we pay attention to the void—the pregnancy before Jesus’ birth—the slavery of Egypt, the fear of foreign armies, the empty sky before it was filled with angels and a bright star.
The silence must have been overwhelming to God’s people. Maybe not to everyone. Maybe most of the Jews were like us—stuffing themselves full of image and consumerism—focusing on the family or the future or competing with the past. I wonder how many of the Jews noticed the void. And if they did, they probably had no idea what the void was.
We’re horrible at identifying the void. We feel a little empty or a little sad. We assume something in our lives needs to change. We need a spouse or a different spouse or another kid or another job or less stress. We want a savior that will come and conquer our personal crises or, like the Israelites, fix our land disputes and cut down our Herods and our enemies.
We want all external complications to be obliterated. Come, Lord Jesus, and fix what I think is wrong here on earth. Do what I think would make this world better.
No doubt we were meant to feel the void of Advent communally. “Truly he taught us to love one another—his law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother and in his name all oppression shall cease.”
We were meant to feel the world’s need for redemption and restoration.
But advent is also the time for us to wait for our own restoration. Injustice is in the world, but it also exists in us. Oppression happens around us, but we often are willing participants. We despise immorality but passionately participate in the crime of hate. We refuse to take grace extended to us for past mistakes and we live in unforgiveness toward ourselves and others.
The void is in us.
We are in need of the baby in the manger. We are in need of the coming of the Messiah. Not just for our world or our culture, but for our own insufficiency. Even in the midst of the gift of salvation there is much in us that needs the touch of the Savior. There are closets in our lives we don’t want to open and soapboxes we don’t want to climb off.
How can oppression cease if we are not first freed from being the oppressors? How can we be agents of love if we do not live in the love extended to us? What does forgiveness mean if we reject it for our own past regrets?
The world needs a Savior—yes. But so do I. Not just for the gift of eternal life or entrance into the kingdom, but for the gift of daily transformation.
Hope is small if we’ve limited it to a myopic understanding of heaven. Hope is for today—hope that I don’t have to choose what I chose yesterday. That I don’t have to dominate or control or hate or compete.
The manger means I can continually look more like Jesus. The void on this side of heaven can continue to be met with the Fulfillment.
When you say, “Come Lord Jesus. We wait for you.” What are you saying? Simply that you want the world to be rid of murderers, alcoholics and democrats? Or can you also say, “I wait for you. In the midst of my angst and my tendency to oppress and my disdain for the other and my unwillingness to love. Come to me, Lord Jesus.”
As we put ourselves in a position to feel our need during advent, we invite the manger to change us every single day. And as this deep transformation occurs, we become participants as God breaks chains, not killing off sex traffickers, but changing them. Not destroying the greedy, but restoring them.
Hope has come. Hope is coming. We waste Christmas if we reject the gift offered to us by the silence of Advent.
Right now, Olive understands a part of the Advent prayer, but over her life, God will unpack the meaning of her words. For now, she knows Advent happens before Christmas. I want her to grow up knowing that the baby in the manger wasn’t a one-time ticket to punch, but a reminder every day of our continued desperation for healing. Dear Lord Jesus, we wait for you. Come, Lord Jesus. Come meet me in my brokenness and restore the deep pain of the world.