Living between two Advents

December 3rd, 2018

Some of us are experiencing a hangover from the November midterm elections. We’ve endured the nasty commercials in which candidates degrade and downright demonize each other. Cable news networks reveal their political cards, offering their slanted spin on the situation. And, apparently, I’m not smart enough to keep dumb political ads and articles from invading my smart phone. How long, oh Lord, how long?

During the past few election cycles, I have found myself borderline depressed. I wonder, sometimes aloud to friends, has the political climate ever been so hot? Then I recall the political volatility surrounding that first advent. The Roman government was bullying the Jews. Not only that, but there was significant infighting among the Jews; the political ads were nasty as the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Zealots competed for political power. Into that turbulence, a child was born.

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The first advent, or coming, of the Christ was so subtle it was easy for people to miss. Most did. The only way to witness the Word made flesh was to be on the lookout for it. Hopeful, persistent watching seems to have been a prerequisite for being “in the know” about the “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). Like a needle in the haystack is a beautiful baby breathing softly amid the noise of governmental oppression and religious abuse. Only those who stop, look, and listen up see the God who shows up to speak up.  

We live between two advents. Thankfully, the second coming of Christ will not be nearly as subtle as his first. “Every knee will bow” to the unmistakable Lord who lives and reigns both now and forever. But surviving here and now, stuck as we are between two advents, requires a bit of beauty-sleuthing. There is evidence of advent all around us, subtle beauty that permeates reality and awaits our detection. A couple whose marriage was hanging by a very thin thread experiences a reinfusion of love. A middle-aged man with a cancerous tumor the size of a softball laughs with uncontrollable joy. A suicidal teenager cracks a smile revealing teeth that glisten with hope. Lifelong enemies find the grace to reconcile and there is, for the first time, peace. 

The love, joy, hope, and peace of Advent are detectable. Sleuths who wait and watch witness the beauty.

This article originally appeared in the monthly Abingdon Leadership newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter here. To hear Lenny discuss Preaching with Empathy, visit the Wesley Seminary Podcast.

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