Advent: The Longing of the “Already and Not Yet”

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I love the season of Advent. Yesterday I read a blog post by Sarah Bessey on the topic. One of the things she said was, “If Christmas is for the joy, then Advent is for the longing.” This really struck a cord in me, so I’ve been pondering it.

ADVENT: Word with Latin roots, meaning “coming.” Christians of earlier generations spoke of “the advent of our Lord” and of “His second advent.” The first phrase refers to God’s becoming incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. The latter phrase speaks of Jesus’ second coming. In a second sense “advent” designates a period before Christmas when Christians prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Fred A. Grissom and Steve Bond, “Advent,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 31.

I appreciate this definition as it’s more comprehensive than confining the meaning of Advent to the four weeks before Christmas.

The reality is, we are living in the space between His first and second advent; between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to the Father and when He will come again and “make all things new.” This time of waiting emphasizes the tension of the “already and not yet.” The “already” of our salvation being accomplished for us during the incarnation. And the “not yet” of realizing this world, while still reflecting the beautiful and wondrous place He created, is broken and marred by our sin, so it is also heart breaking, painful, and incomprehensible.

Our life, whether we realize it or not, is a constant waiting for His second advent. The time of longing for something more.

We often feel guilty for this longing, especially if we are a believer in Christ, because we know what He has already done for us by His first advent.

Jesus, fully God and fully man, lived the perfect life, so when the Father looks at us, He doesn’t see our sins, our failures, our messes. He sees the life of His beloved Son.

Jesus died in our place, to pay the penalty for our sins. His death satisfied God’s holiness and justice which can’t let sin slide, which can’t lower the bar. Instead, He loved us so much He determined He would pay the price to reconcile us to Himself. He tore apart the veil separating us from His holiness.

And then He raised Jesus from the dead, by the power of His Spirit, so we would know Jesus’ sacrifice was heard. It was accepted. In Christ, our salvation has already been accomplished. And He gives us His Spirit to live in us, to strengthen us, and to remind us of His promises.

However, I believe the longing we continue to have, even knowing all He has done for us, is given to us by God. It’s His way of reminding us there is more than the world we see with our human eyes. It’s like having a wonderful dream where you wake up happy and content, but you can’t quite remember what the dream was about. You want those feelings to last, but as the dream slips away, so do they. No matter how hard you try, you can’t bring the dream back. And the feeling there is something more, something better, doesn’t go away.

Longing is us grasping to get that dream back. The good news is … it’s not a dream. It’s something real, and the longing will be fulfilled. But not until Jesus’ second advent. Then there will be no more cancer. No more injustice, racial, gender or otherwise. There will be no more illness. No more death. No more strain and separation in our relationships.

The incomprehensibly beautiful day as Revelation 21 describes below will happen.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Rev 21:1-5 ESV

As you walk through this Advent season, I pray you would look to the joy ahead while giving yourself the freedom to experience the longing and know it’s OK. It is given to you as a gift from the One who, alone, will someday fulfill that longing completely.

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