Advent 1: Waiting (Hope)

Tonight's passage:
Isaiah 2:1-5 (NIV)
1 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and all nations will stream to it.
Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.
Come, descendants of Jacob,
    let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Waiting. That's the main theme of Advent. It's not an easy one, either. We live in an instant-gratification society. As we lit the candle and read the Advent devotional tonight, my youngest was frustrated that tonight had us put together the background that we'll be putting stickers on rather than getting to put a sticker on tonight. He didn't want to wait one day. So of course that presented an opportunity to talk about the importance of learning to wait.

The Bible is full of waiting. Noah waited over a year for the flood waters to go down. Sarah waited through old age to become a mother.  The Israelites waited for deliverance. Then they waited for the promised land (albeit it was their own fault they couldn't enter right away because of their grumbling). The prophets waited for the Messiah to come and fulfill their prophecies. Mary waited for the Child to be born. John waited for the one whose sandals he was unworthy to untie. The disciples waited to know what to do after Jesus was crucified. We all await His return.

As we look back at those stories, we are given the hope that what was waited for came to pass. Even if what we are waiting for (like the coming Kingdom) seems like it may never arrive, we are given hope knowing it one day will.

Isaiah promises us that there will be a day when the Lord's path is clear and all will know it, and this will bring peace. Clearly we're not there yet. That is the tension we live in. We know that the Kingdom will come, and that it is already here in many ways, but not to the fullest extent of what is promised.

I have those tensions within me. I confess my sin and repent of it, but I still mess up plenty. I know that one day God will transform me completely--that I will be washed as white as snow. But I'm not there yet. I'm not fully made into the likeness of Christ. But I know that one day, God willing, I will be.

We put up our Christmas tree today--much earlier that we usually do (we typically wait until St. Nicholas Day or Santa Lucia Day to do it). My youngest couldn't wait (he really likes to appropriately decorate at celebrations), plus my wife is going to be gone next week. It, along with our advent devotions and candles each night, remind us that Christmas isn't here yet. The world waited for the Messiah to be born. We await His return. The lights on the tree give us hope in the darkness of winter. He will return. We can handle the wait.

Indeed, we live in the waiting. That is where life happens. And the better we learn to wait I think the better we learn to live.

Haiku prayers based on tonight's text:

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