Advent: Looking Forward
It’s no secret that the best thing about the Advent season isn’t the tinsel and trappings of Christmas, the flurry of gift giving and receiving, or even the joyful celebration of our Savior’s birth. The best part of Advent is not Advent itself, but what it points to—the victorious second coming of Christ. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus, “having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him" (Hebrews 9:28; emphasis added).
We know this; we know that Jesus is coming again, and we feel in our bones a longing that he return. But how does this knowledge impact our lives? What does it look like to eagerly wait for him? And how does his future return—whenever that may be—change our here-and-now?
Seek to be found faithful. If we are waiting for Christ’s return, then we are expecting it to happen. We are not merely hoping for it; we are watching and waiting. This is a joyous thing, but also a somber thing. Jesus is returning to “judge the living and the dead,” 2 Timothy 4 tells us, so “be ready in season and out of season.” Eagerly waiting for Christ means living with the knowledge that he has an absolute right to demand we give an account to him for our lives at any moment. We cannot afford to dally with our “pet sins” or the wickedness we excuse as personality traits. We must be ruthless in rooting out sin from our lives. Each of us must live in light of the urgency of the hour—if Christ returned right now, would I be pleased to meet him? Or would I be shut out in eternal darkness, like one of the five unprepared virgins whose foolishness kept them from entering into the joy of the Bridegroom? (See Matthew 25:1-13.)
Be patient in the waiting. If we are waiting for Jesus, then we are also waiting on Jesus. James 5:7 instructs us, “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.” We can wait patiently, trusting God’s perfect timing, even as we await him eagerly. The same God whose perfect plan for the redemption of creation involved crushing his own Son, who promises to never leave us nor forsake us, this is the God we are waiting on. His timing and his ways are flawless, even when incomprehensible. Let us then be good stewards of the time we’re given, living as he calls us to, heeding His commands and commissions. And let us particularly seek to comfort and aid the afflicted and hurting, the persecuted and oppressed, as they surely feel the weight of this waiting most keenly.
Know that today, he is enough. Knowledge of who our returning Savior is provides us with an unshakeable source of strength for present trials. God promises that his children will face hardship (John 16:33). Frailty is part of being human, and suffering is most assuredly part of being a Christian. But the Lord is near to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18), and we can each attest to the sweet knowledge of his presence that is only available when we are brought low. In the depths of our despair, he reminds us that he, too, knows what it is to suffer and feel sorrow, to experience temptation, sickness, and even death—yet he endured (Heb. 4:15-16; cf. 12:1-3). Our sovereign Lord is a high priest who empathizes with our weaknesses. We can thus say, in the face of blinding grief and pain that escapes articulation, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26).
Lift up your eyes—for tomorrow, he is coming. Our strength for today is our bright hope for tomorrow. Christ came once to ransom our depraved souls and offer us salvation; he is coming again to avenge every wrong, bind every wound, and summon his own to heaven. This is the most joyous hope of Advent—the baby born in Bethlehem is a King who will one day bring the faithful home to reign with him for all eternity. This world is not our home. This life is not as good as it gets. We can walk (or crawl) through the mundane, the frustrating, the hidden, and the hard seasons, assured of our great hope. He who has promised will be faithful, and the current and any future trials will pale in comparison to the lavish celebration we will one day enter. Here we may have troubles, but there we will have Christ, and with Him pleasures evermore.
And so we wait. We wait expectantly, examining our hearts and actions, that we may be found faithful on the wonderful, terrible Day of Judgment. We wait patiently, firmly reliant on the perfect timing of our good Father. And we wait hopefully, confident that all heartache or hardship we encounter here will be rendered mute and toothless by the all-encompassing joy of our imminent reunion with Christ. We wait on you—even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Brittany Cragg is a retired attorney who works full-time as a stay-at-home mom and part-time as a writer and editor for Grace Marriage. She and her husband, Mark, have been married for eight years, and have been attending Providence since June 2018. Mark and Brittany have a daughter, Beckham (1.5), and a son due in May 2019.