“It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”
The first mother to say, “Just wait until your dad gets home!” was a genius. Living in dread of punishment may be an even more effective punishment than any penalty that might be meted out once the waiting is over. In fact, even waiting for something that we do want to receive can be a painful experience, one leading to doubt, to wondering whether our expectations are well-founded and our trust in the one who is to deliver on the promise is well-placed.
Advent is a time of waiting…and it seems to get more and more painful every year, as the world around us begins its enticing, but false, celebration of Christmas earlier and earlier each Fall. Yet, it is worth the wait if we want to fully appreciate what Christmas means. We need what Advent gives and teaches if we are to survive the even greater time of waiting (this whole life on earth) without succumbing to doubt in the midst of earthly concerns and anxieties.
Advent is a time of waiting. It is a ritual time of waiting for Jesus to come. It is modeled after the years that Israel waited for the Messiah to appear and yet, it’s not quite the same. It’s not the quite the same because we know what the outcome of our waiting will be, that Jesus will be born and live and die for us.
But wait. Is that really what we are waiting for during Advent? In one sense, yes, it is. We wait ritually so that we can celebrate the incarnation of the Christ with proper understanding and reverence. In another sense, this is not what we are waiting for at all. Instead, we are waiting for Him to come again in glory, to take us out of this place of corruption and decay and to transform our bodies into a glorious body like His own resurrected body.
Thus we are caught between two realities: His first coming and His second. His coming to redeem us from sin, death, and hell, and His coming to bring the fruit of that redemption to its ultimate completion. The first coming makes us sure about the second coming; we have the testimony of His resurrection to give us confidence that, as He said, He will return for us.
There is a third reality of His coming, too. In the mean time, Jesus comes to us now through the Word and Sacrament, bridging these two comings so that we live in expectation of Him and, at the same time, already have Him. This is similar to the condition of the believer between death and the resurrection of all flesh. Immediately at death, we are freed from pain and sorrow and are in the presence of God. The purpose of our Baptism may rightly be said to be fulfilled, since the cleansing we receive there is seen as complete and irreversible at death. And yet, there is something more that we wait for – the resurrection of our bodies. Of course, the big difference between that waiting and the waiting we experience now, is that then there will be no opportunity for doubt, since we will be free from sin and living in God’s presence.
Consider the difference between the state of the Christian between death and the Last Day and the state of the believer living on earth: the chief difference is in “how much Jesus we have” in either case. The best remedy for the pain of waiting today, then, must be having as much Jesus as we can…hearing His Word, receiving His Absolution, eating His body and drinking His blood. We have that now in the Divine Service. Come to the Lord’s house and wait because it is true, “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:26) We have God’s Word on it.
~ Pastor Christensen