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How Long, O Lord?

November 29 2018
November 29 2018


The holiday season is now upon us. Christmas and the New Year will be here before you know it. When we’re children, we may say that Christmas takes “forever” to arrive, but by the time we’re adults, the days feel like minutes. Life happens so quickly. How can it be time for Christmas again?

Perhaps our annual surprise also indicates a subconscious resistance to the pressures and obligations that accompany this season. The holidays are not just here, we have to get ready for them. Presents must be bought, parties planned and attended and, of course, money, lots of money has to be spent. All of this — the rapidity of pace, the mounting pressure and shrinking bank accounts — makes the holidays a challenging time. I think most of us are just hoping to survive. 

While we tell ourselves that the chaos of the season is an unavoidable force, what if the truth is that we prefer to descend into our own personal Christmas pressure cookers? What if they are part of our chosen annual liturgy?

As a management strategy, frantic activity is hard to beat. If we’re constantly busy “making” Christmas, then we don’t have to consider the harder questions Christmas presents to us. The great promise of Christmas is that the Light of the world has come in Jesus Christ, our eternal God incarnate in the babe in the manger. Yet, at times, this world seems as dark as ever.

When we see the destruction and disruption of lives that natural disasters like Hurricane Michael and the California forest fires wreak, don’t you wonder? When cancer afflicts our beloved children, stealing their health and joy, don’t you wonder? When our nation is mired in seemingly intractable and hostile political viewpoints, don’t you wonder? When our marriage has so fractured that it cannot be mended, don’t you wonder? When we wake up to news of another mass shooting and process the senseless violence, don’t you wonder? When our hearts become calloused to the heartbreak, fear and poverty of immigrants seeking a future amidst the freedoms in this country we take for granted, don’t you wonder?

Where is the Light of the World then? What difference does Jesus Christ make?

Even if we want to paste over such difficult questions with our tree tinsel and iced sugar cookies, it’s in our best interest to sit in the uncomfortable tension those questions represent. Historically, these are questions that Christians have intentionally wrestled with and one of the primary ways that difficult conversation has been structured is through the season of Advent.

Advent, from the Latin word adventus, meaning “arrival,” is about more than getting ready to celebrate Christmas. Specifically, Advent refers both to the season of waiting that preceded the coming of our long-looked-for Messiah and to the season of waiting that we now all experience, as we long for Christ’s return. Advent, then, is a powerful reminder that without the presence of our Divine Redeemer this world lays in darkness (Matt. 4:15-16; Isa. 9:1-2).

With his first coming, we know that the Light of the Gospel did finally come. Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus has defeated all of the powers of darkness (Jn. 12:46). Paul writes, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:15).

Nevertheless, the fullness of our deliverance remains in the future. We still look forward to the full consummation of all Jesus’ saving work, which coincides with his future return (Rev. 21:1). Consequently, though the light has shined in the darkness, the darkness still persists. Sometimes we feel its presence more than at other times.

For this reason, Advent, with its call to waiting, sobriety and reflection, is all the more important. We don’t just remember the waiting of those former saints during Advent, but we ourselves must learn to prepare and wait now.

During Advent we ought to cultivate a holy longing for Christ’s return to right this world’s wrongs, reverse the downward drag of death and to usher in His everlasting shalom. Therefore, it’s entirely appropriate that during Advent we pray with the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord?” (Ps. 6:3; 13:1; 35:17). How can we not? This world is still so broken. It’s only by such honest questioning that our hearts are able to focus on the One who alone can address and undo what ails our hearts and this world.

So why not pause now before you descend into the Christmas frenzy? Even as we shop, bake and decorate, let’s not forget to stay alert to the events in this world and the lives of those nearest to us.

Those realities may bring unwelcome burdens and questions, but they will also hopefully push us towards a more vibrant, authentic faith. Instead of striving for the “perfect Christmas,” let’s instead wait, pray, and prepare for the return of the Christ who will finally, upon his return, perfect all things!

We hope you will join us at Redeemer during this Advent season. View Redeeemer's full Advent schedule HERE.


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