One of my favorite GLAD Christmas songs (on "Voices of Christmas") is really an Advent song: Bob Kauflin's "All the World was Waiting." All the world was waiting for the promised One. Prophets through the ages claimed that He would come. Would He be a warrior, or a conquering king? Could he be the one who’d save us from our sin and suffering?
During Advent, the first Lectionary readings (the Old Testament readings) are almost all from the prophets. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Zephaniah, Malachi. We hear the despair of a people, even they are just a remnant, and we hear the Lord's promises. God has not forsaken the people. The promised One will come and save.
All the world was waiting the night that you were born. God of life eternal, in a fragile form. Shepherds gathered closer, gazing at your face; Wondering how this helpless child could save a fallen human race. So often we think we know what will save us. But throughout scripture we see God calling out to the least and the lost, working in ways we wouldn't expect, appearing in places and ways that surprise us. It was the shepherds who gathered around, and a newborn was proclaimed as Savior and Messiah.
All the world was waiting as you became a man. Truth was in your teaching, healing in your hand. Though your heart was sinless, you laid down your life; To pay the debt that only perfect love could satisfy. We think of Advent as leading to Christmas. Advent means coming, after all, so it is the season leading to our celebration of the coming of Christ. But if we believe that Christ will come again, then Advent is also reflective of the season -- of the world, not the liturgical year -- that we are living, waiting on the Lord, and so we cannot divorce Advent from the story of Jesus' life because that is the bridge from the world that was waiting to the world that is waiting. This life laid down out of perfect love is why they waited. It is why we wait, too.
Now the world is waiting for another day, When your Sovereign hand will turn the final page, And all will be accomplished; Our trials and tears will end; And those who’ve longed to see you will never wait again. This is Advent. We read the Prophets, we hear the people's waiting, and we echo it. This is the promise: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. We wait on the Lord's promises, for the Lord is faithful. We wait and long for the peace and kingdom to come. We imagine and seek the kingdom of God.
But as we wait, we know that the kingdom is not only to come but rather is coming. God is at work, here, now. We look around, and it seems like there is no hope and no peace, but our hope and peace are in God alone, and God is here. We just need to look and listen and serve. Our waiting is not passive. It is a waiting that sees where God's kingdom is coming and works that the kingdom may come and God's will may be done. We build our hope and peace on the Lord's promises, we light our candles in the dark, and we all together wait for the day when we will never wait again.