Much of advent is about waiting. But what are we waiting for and what were people waiting for before the first Christmas?Are we only waiting for that day to finally come when we can
unwrap the presents under the tree celebrate the birth of God in human flesh. The day when God becomes with us. Emmanuel, God is with us. What does this mean that God is with us? What are the implications of God living among us? How should Christmas change our lives?
The anticipation of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, the coming of the Messiah, Emmanuel, the incarnation of God is prevalent in the prophets and the Psalter. Much of the anticipation of Emmanuel is due to a longing for justice and redemption. The Prophet Isaiah states
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
However, it is clear that the Messiah that was anticipated as a righteous King with a sword in one hand and a scroll of the scripture in another, is not the suffering servant that Jesus embodied. Jesus even scolds the Pharisees, in Luke 11:42, for their gifts because they have neglected justice:
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.”
So in this Advent season, spend a little time longing for justice and redemption. Hope for the day when injustice has ended and there is no more death, or mourning or crying or pain. And pray with the Psalmist
Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.