Waiting for peace; hoping for joy; anticipating something wonderful. All of creation waits in earnest for the time of salvation.
It is this time of year when we think about how the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing since the day a voice shouted in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!”
John the Baptist - the prophet who baptized men in rivers - proclaimed that the long-awaited Messiah was coming to baptize them with fire. He was born for advent—born to tell the news:
“The morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death and to guide us to the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).
“Advent” means “coming.” Good things on the way produce eager expectation and usher in times of preparation. And the season of Advent is about more than counting down days until Christmas—it is a readying for the second coming of the One who was, who is, and who is to come.
The Hope: How to Wait Well
The main purpose of Advent is to train us up in the art of waiting well, which means three things:
1) Wait with correct expectations.
First and foremost, waiting well means knowing who it is you’re waiting for. (The entire Christian faith rests in the hope of Jesus’ return. If it isn’t in the forefront of our minds as we live and worship, then what is our faith in, really?)
John the Baptist recognized Jesus as the Messiah and was able to point others toward him because he knew what to expect. Luke 7:20-23 says:
“John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, ‘John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’ At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and he restored sight to many who were blind. Then he told John’s disciples, ‘Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’”
When John the Baptist’s disciples returned with that answer, he had no doubt in his mind that Jesus was the Messiah because he knew exactly what he was looking for, and Jesus fit the bill.
We, too, are waiting for Jesus. The question is, do we know him well enough to recognize him when he comes again?
Let’s get to know him. Let’s spend Advent studying his life and his teachings and the context of it all by digging into the Bible. (The four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are a great place to start.)
2) Wait with confidence.
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen, it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Faith is equated to confidence, and confidence cannot be produced by ignorance. Instead, it is created and strengthened through both concrete and spiritual, yet undeniable, experiences.
Our confidence grows when we witness miracles or see prayers answered. It grows when we take the time to look back to see how all things—even the hard things—have worked together for our good. It grows when we notice the complex intricacies and simple beauties in the world around us. It grows as we learn to recognize God’s hand in our daily lives.
Confidence can be cultivated. As you practice trusting God with more of your life, your confidence in him and in his promises will grow because his love is unfailing.
3) Wait with joy.
John the Baptist lived his entire life in a state of advent, waiting for Jesus to begin, and to carry out his ministry. John's life was extraordinary—he wasn’t concerned with his own reputation. His only concern was what God was doing in the world through Jesus. He said, “I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (John 3:29-30).
John the Baptist was joyful because he lived a life in line with the beliefs he professed. He lived according to the calling he was given, which is the same calling we are all given when we believe: to know Christ and to make him known.