"The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will fulfill the good promise I made." -- the Prophet Jeremiah
And so God delivers yet another overdue I.O.U. There doesn't seem to be anything good about divine promises from the stories of the Bible. The goodness of creation was too quickly broken by corruption and death, either by the masochistic sovereignty of the creator or by unwieldy humans, given only enough freedom to determine our own downfall. Violence between brothers escalated to war between tribes. God allegedly favored one tribe or another, and all lost lives and glory and made grand narratives of the divine retribution that would destroy their enemies and vindicate their struggle. These narratives of scripture came to foreshadow a grand king who would settle the score, select a tribe, and establish his political reign on earth. The followers of Jesus claimed that Jesus himself was this man, and that while he may not have established an eternal political order of righteousness while he was here, he will return to fulfill just that.
And so we wait. Since those first warring bands of humanity, the Christian order of time has given us little more than a faux virtue of patience for the coming of a peace that is out of our reach and no greater vice than the complacency to wallow in sanctimonious defeat, increasing our wealth and might while we wait for Jesus to come again and make do everything for us. Prophets like Jeremiah remind us with 3,000 years of repetition to keep on waiting. Christians have either waited with melancholic expectancy for Christ's return or repeated the warring mistakes of his predecessors: using violence over peace to enact legalistic recognition of ancient moral codes. Waiting, expectancy, and anxiety have become the sacraments of this faith, and we have called it hope.
On the Sundays of Advent, churches light the candles of cyclical evergreen wreaths and remind ourselves again to hope. And so we wait for our gifts, countdown with a new cotton ball to glue onto Santa's beard with each passing day, and laze with anticipation for Christmas, and we have called this hope. Drunken with expectancy, eggnog, and a second seasonal turkey feast, we will crash into Christmas night already bored with our new toys, tired of the carols, and ready for another long winter's nap like nothing happened at all. Is this what we hoped for?
And then we'll countdown until New Years, and then to birthdays or Valentine's or the Superbowl, and then to spring break and summer and vacation, until, once again, we'll find ourselves counting down yet another twenty-five days until the coming of Christ on December 25th once more. We've learned to live our lives waiting.
This is not hope.
I'm not waiting for Christmas this year.
If the message of Jesus were summed into one phrase, I believe it would be that infinite love is right where you are, right now, for the taking, or as he said it, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." If you're waiting for Jesus to come, then you're waiting for the wrong guy, because he's already here and ready. Modern-day prophets like Langston Hughes and Martin Luther King, Jr., asked us, "What happens to a dream deferred?" and reminded us, "Justice delayed is justice denied." These are the voices of Advent. Neither Christmas, the coming of Christ, nor the second coming of Christ are anything to be waited for. Whatever peace, joy, or love the world needs for Christmas, we don't have to wait for more candles to be lit, or more cotton balls to be glued, or more shopping to be done. Advent means living and working like today's the day. Stop waiting. Start hoping.