SMcK: I don’t know about you, but these are timely words for me.

Advent in Contested Territory: God with us

By Heather L. Hart

Only distance could save us.

A tiny, nonliving entity, with the power to kill, invaded bodies and sent us fleeing. Safety was separation, community was danger. Quarantine defined life. It was necessary to detach so we might live. All was beyond our control. Where was God in our death, isolation, division, and fear

Christians enter the season of Advent knowing that Jesus, the God-Human, came to rescue the world. A world overrun by inescapable darkness: God’s good creation was the occupied territory of Sin and Death. The people of God longed for God’s promised intervention. Hope for liberation persisted.

Jesus is God’s deliverance: the rescuing Savior, the chosen Messiah, the ruling Lord.[1] His purpose was to “bring good news to the poor… proclaim release to the captives and sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[2] The inescapable darkness became more than merely escapable. The reigning control of Sin and Death was utterly severed by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

And yet.

And yet, we are overrun by a pandemic. We are overrun by violence, scarcity, bigotry, lies – we are even overrun by our own selves. Our wants, desires, ways of thinking and living, continually spiral away from God.[3] The darkness is very real, very near.

Advent looks at Jesus’ arrival and sees the approaching liberation from Sin and Death. Advent aches for Christmas because Easter is breathtaking. Advent represents the longing for God’s intervention 2000 years ago, but it also represents our longing for God’s intervention now. The powers defeated at Easter have not yet been destroyed. The world we live in is contested territory. The vanquished refuse to leave. They grasp at any terrain they see. The conqueror has been declared, but the conquered press in on every side. There is no aspect of earthly life or other-worldly power that Sin and Death don’t attempt to control.[4]

Advent sees our present struggle and longs for renewals completion; it persists in hope. This hope is confident in the nearness of God’s love.[5] Our experience of darkness does not mean God has left. There is no separation: God has irrevocably joined with humanity in Jesus. Jesus will never not be the God-Human. Joining our life to Jesus includes us in his victory.[6] Joining with Jesus gives us life in the Spirit. Jesus and the Spirit intercede for us and make us part of God’s family. The Spirit is our power to resist contested territory and our promise that one day, no territory will be contested.[7] One day, every opposition will be destroyed. God’s presence will gloriously rule in full.

In advent, we sit with eyes wide open. We see the pain from Sin and Death, but that is not all we see. We see the victory and we see glory on the horizon.

In Advent, we see Jesus, Emanuel: God with us.[8]

[1] Luke 2:10-11

[2] Luke 4:18-19; Isaiah 61:1-2

[3] Romans 7:14-24

[4] Romans 8:35, 38-39

[5] Romans 8:39

[6] Romans 6:3-11; 8:37

[7] Romans 8:2-30

[8] Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14