“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” -2 Peter 3:8-14
It seems the holidays bring far more stress into our lives than what it is intended. A problem arises when we begin to live our lives unintentionally, when we just allow life to happen to us. I’ve been reading through John Webster’s recent book Confronted By Grace, and Advent was the subject of the most recent chapter I read. Webster comments on our busy condition:
“We build our whole lives around the assumption that everything will carry on pretty much as it is; that it will be meaningful to have a career, marry and raise children, build a culture, write a book, look to tranquility in retirement. We can’t seem to work without the steady assumption that our lives and times stretch out in front of us and that we will work and hope, reaching out into future time. Of course, in one sense, we’re quite right to do so. We have to carry on, we have to build, we have to make a future for ourselves.”
We are caught up in our own work, it is all about how hard we can work, how much we can accumulate and assume it will always be like this. As Webster puts it:
“It is against all this that Advent is four weeks of solid protest.”
At the Incarnation, God breaks into human history. This news is radical, life altering. To proclaim the Incarnation is to proclaim that God is with us. The season of Advent is to remind us that our lives are not our own. That our anxieties are fruitless, and only lead us to despair and idolatry. It is this condition that the season of Advent is in protest. We are called to renounce ourselves, die to ourselves, as it is Christ who came and made a home within us. Webster continues:
“Advent tells us that communities which build their political lives around an idea of invulnerability, which assume that the earth and the works on it will remain forever, are in the end idolatrous. Advent tells us that ways of religious belief which like to think that everything about God can be fixed with routines and habits and order are not ways of discipleship, but ways of resisting God’s claim upon us. For these things also are to be dissolved, burned up, and brought to nothing.”
We live our lives constantly on the brink of idolatry. The only remedy is to submit ourselves to the lordship of Christ, and live in thanksgiving in what He has done for us. Our existence is an act of grace. God’s grace is always disruptive and reorienting.
“Advent calls us to live now in anticipation of the new world of God…we are commanded to hold ourselves ready, to be zealous to be found waiting by him at his coming.”
We are called to live lives of anticipation. To be found waiting for Him. Within the waiting we can find the grace needed to persevere, the grace needed to find rest in our anxiety ridden lives. Let us live within the protest of Advent. Barth offers up this prayer:
“We thank you that we are permitted to know that we do not pray and will never pray to you in vain. We thank you that you have let your light rise, that it shines in the darkness, and that the darkness will not overcome it. We thank you that you are our God, and that we may be your people. Amen.” (Fifty Prayers, pg. 5)
Let us echo this prayer today, and the days of Advent still ahead.