Advent Wisdom from the Bible | Wisdom Wednesday
We are a week and a half into Advent, and Christmas decorations are up all over, people are wishing one another a Merry Christmas, and it's widely agreed to be the "most wonderful time of the year". But is it? Certainly our anticipation for the coming of Jesus brings us hopeful joy, but is it the most wonderful time of the year?
There's a lot of tension in our waiting for Jesus. For one, Jesus' coming goes hand and hand with our conviction. When Jesus finally comes, he will bring justice, but that means we too will be judged. Another source of tension is the stark darkness of a world without Jesus. The more our longing for Jesus grows, so grows our awareness of the fallenness of this world. That can be really upsetting, and the timing of the season is designed to make that really present to us. In many ways, Advent makes Jesus's apparent absence more obvious, which is why we cry out "Come, Lord Jesus!" and wait anxiously for the parousia (Christ's appearance).
Here are some Scriptural prophecies of the Incarnation that can remind us to treat the remainder of the Advent season somewhat soberly.
Jesus comes to "annoy" us
Let us lie in wait for the righteous one, because he is annoying to us;
he opposes our actions,
Reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God
and styles himself a child of the LORD.
To us he is the censure of our thoughts;
merely to see him is a hardship for us,
Because his life is not like that of others,
and different are his ways.
Wow. "Merely to see him is a hardship for us." Jesus is so perfect and just that merely to see him is convicting to us. At best, this could make us act foolish and stubborn like the Apostles. At worst, it could make us totally reject him like some of the religious leaders of Jesus' time did. Are we being vigilant? Are we diligently preparing and examining ourselves so that we will recognize the righteous one when he comes? Or have our preparations been diluted by our preoccupation with the holiday season? Will we be caught sleeping, and mistake Jesus for someone else? Or will we be found awake, and then experience the fullness of Christmas joy?
Jesus brings major reconstruction
A voice proclaims:
In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be lifted up,
every mountain and hill made low;
The rugged land shall be a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
- Isaiah 40: 3-4
The above prophetic verse is the inspiration for a popular hymn, but we should be attentive to what it's saying. Jesus comes paving and razing our rough spots. Jesus comes to tear up and re-lay rugged land. I don't want to say that's violent imagery, but it's certainly dramatic. It's dramatic change that we should be prepared for. Jesus doesn't come to pat us on the head, he comes to shine light in dark areas and tear down everything destructive or counterproductive. The smoothing of rough edges isn't pleasant. It's messy, difficult work. Are we prepared for our rough edges to be smoothed? Are we prepared to help clean, raze, or smooth those parts of society that we see as being hostile to God?
This is tough, but GOOD news
Surely, in a very little while,
Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard,
and the orchard be considered a forest!
On that day the deaf shall
hear the words of a scroll;
And out of gloom and darkness,
the eyes of the blind shall see.
The lowly shall again find joy in the LORD,
the poorest rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
For the tyrant shall be no more,
the scoffer shall cease to be;
All who are ready for evil shall be cut off,
those who condemn with a mere word,
Who ensnare the defender at the gate,
and leave the just with an empty claim.
herefore thus says the LORD,
the God of the house of Jacob,
who redeemed Abraham:
No longer shall Jacob be ashamed,
no longer shall his face grow pale.
Advent is a reminder of Jesus' coming, and as such it compels us to be sober and mindful and self-examining. But being soberly hopeful is different than be somber or fearful. Jesus' coming is good news for us. The lowly who have been beat down to joylessness will again have joy! The tyrant and scoffer will be no more. We won't need to be ashamed anymore, because we'll be experiencing the fullness of joy that comes with Jesus' presence.
Christmas may just be the most wonderful time of the year, but Advent serves to remind us that as of now, we are still waiting for Christmas. Before we get totally caught up in the happiness of the season, let's take some time to reflect on our rough patches and the rough patches of our culture so that we can truly prepare the way of the Lord.