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Watching and Waiting
Advent reminds us of an even greater event coming.
Ryan Hamm | posted 12/11/2012
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That's not a very hard stance to empathize with in 2012. It seems there are all kinds of reasons to lose hope—if the news isn't filled with bad economic forecasts, there are reports of wars, genocide, injustice, and cruelty. It makes waiting difficult. Hope seems impossible and justice seems far off. The doubts and anxieties of the ancient faithful begin to sound a lot less frustrating and much more relatable. With the psalmist, or with the prophet Habbukuk, or with the prophet Isaiah, or with any of the other desperate voices of the Old Testament, we cry out: "How long, O Lord?"

This is the stance Advent reminds us of—for a few weeks each year, we're reminded that we're also living in an age of anticipation. And Advent also reminds us there are pin pricks of hope in the world—and in the very consummation of God's promises.

Now Dimly, Soon Face-to-Face

The people at the beginning of the New Testament were living in a time when it seemed hopeless, but they had small signs that things weren't as far gone as they might have feared. They had prophets and priests, brave leaders who pointed the way to God and reminded his people of his promises.

In the 21st century, we have similar voices to call us to a deeper following of Christ. And we are given an added dose of encouragement—as people of the Resurrection, we are given glimpses of the kingdom of heaven storming in. We see examples of Christians doing things that are signposts of hope, subversive reminders that our hope isn't in vain. Just like the prophets and priests of old, we have fellow believers reminding us of God's promises.

But what Advent reminds us of is perhaps the biggest signpost of all. Advent's conclusion gives us a Vegas-style neon marquee. That's because after several weeks of being reminded that we live in a time of anticipation, we're also reminded that God answers his promises and is faithful in even deeper ways than we can imagine.

Advent helps us remember that we're not the first generation of God's followers who have waited and watched. With Zechariah, we sometimes doubt even in the face of all the small points of light God provides. And we might not be the last generation to doubt. But this entire season helps us to see that when we sing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," we're remembering a promise that God fulfilled. A promise that saw Emmanuel—God with us—come true in a powerful way. And a promise that one day we will experience another adventus—another arrival—when the promises of God will be fully realized, and God will be with us (and we with him) for all of eternity.

Ryan Hamm is a writer living in Orlando, FL, where he lives with his wife, spends as much time at Disney World as you would expect, and is at work on his first book. You can find him on Twitter @RyanECHamm.

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