by Jess Dahl, Resonate CWU staff
Rumors of war, the abuse of power, and attacks on the vulnerable all leave us feeling punched in the gut. It’s easy to believe this is the worst it’s ever been for humanity.
The news has been brutal lately. Political leaders shout at each other and society has followed suit. Sexual assault accusations and firings have taken over the news. We feel tension of every kind: racial, political, societal, international, theological. The fragility is palpable. Each night across the globe, we huddle around our screens for hope- waiting for the news to get better, waiting for the politicians to come through on their promises, waiting for those who have been wronged to get justice, waiting for the dust to settle. The tension lingers in the air.
Yesterday marked the first Sunday of advent season. Advent is a Christian tradition celebrated as a season of hope. One may be tempted to believe that this year is the exception to that hope. Our political situation is worse, our societal issues are new. They didn’t have nuclear war to worry about back then, so how can an ancient story from a different time speak to here and now?
But the hope found in the story of God coming to man transcends all ages. The hope found in his defeat of death transcends our daily anxieties. The hope found in his promise to come again transcends our despair of a hopelessly broken world.
The observance of Advent in the church dates back centuries. The word advent comes from the Latin word for “arrival” or “coming.” It has been used to celebrate three forms of God’s coming: God as a baby in the form of Jesus at Christmas, the coming of Christ’s power daily in our lives, and the hope of his return to restore and redeem the world.
The Greek word used in scripture for advent is parousia.
Strong’s Concordance writes that the word parousia, or advent, was used in that time to mark “the arrival of the owner who alone can deal with a situation.” For example, this is like when the house floods and you call the landlord. The renting tenants want to call the shots until things go wrong. When things go wrong you call in the person in charge. This word literally means “to enter into a situation.” God came to Earth knowing there was a situation, and he came to deal with it.
The situation that Jesus entered into in the Christmas story was fraught with political tension. The nation of Israel was under Roman occupation. They were clamoring for freedom, doubting government, and looking for hope. There were parties that shouted for revolution, wanting to overthrow the government and start fresh. There were parties that clung to individual identities, who pulled away from the fray and believed that looking further inward would be the great hope of society. There were parties that clung to fundamentalism, tradition, and rules for morality as the way forward. There were parties that grabbed at power, manipulating and buying their way on any side to be in control.
The God we serve chose to enter into that situation as a baby, and he is able to enter into our situation as a risen lord and savior of this increasingly broken world. Our situation is no match for the owner who alone can deal with it. The creator of the world is not powerless in our current political situation. He has entered into our situation, our mess, and he is here to help. Here are three ways this advent season can meet us in our societal tension and bring hope to what feels like a hopeless world.
1. God Brought Hope to Our Human Situation
Christians celebrate a sent God. He came to us. He entered into a broken world. He did not remove himself from our situation. A Roman empire did not phase him or threaten the kingdom he came to establish. God did not meet strength-for-strength on the world’s terms, but came in vulnerability, as a baby, knowing he had nothing to prove. He came one cold night to refugee parents who had no place to sleep. So often we read the Christmas story with boredom and nostalgia, our eyes glazed over thinking we know the plot. The Christmas story is a gritty collision of the eternal and finite. This is the literary version of a record player scratching to a screeching halt, like in the movies before that tension-filled silence. This story changes everything.
Where do you need to approach the Christmas story with new eyes and ears to find hope?
2. God Brings Hope to Our Daily Situations
This baby, God in the flesh, grew into a man who continued to rewrite the political script. He was plotted against, then gave his life willingly so that a lost human race could be restored to Himself. The shame and weight of being our own god when we were created to serve only One had built a barrier between us and that merited death. It was us or Him, and his grace to bear the curse of sin forever broke the bondage of shame. In our daily despair and feelings of failure, we no longer have to hide, cover up, lie, manipulate, try for perfection. His coming to die for us daily gives us hope to look to in every little moment. Our daily hope is not an intangible ideal but a tangible person and a finished work: Jesus. He has made our situation right with God. What situation do you need to invite him into to find hope for today?
3. God Will Bring Final Hope to Our Earthly Situation
This Earth and its kingdoms that are passing away are not our final home. While that knowledge should give us peace, we cannot disengage from society.We are called to bring hope to others through our lives as Christ-followers. Our king came to redeem and restore, and He left us in the world as His agents of redemption and restoration through reconciliation to Himself.
But we know that true peace will never be achieved before he comes back. Christ promised that he will once again enter into our situation and return to his true place as ruler of this earth, bringing order to creation. Then and only then will we see the fulfillment of true hope on this earth. This means that we need not despair now or fear those that can harm the body but cannot kill the soul. We are eternal beings trapped in mortal bodies, fumbling around on a spinning planet that we, left to our own devices, will self-destruct. God will once again enter into our situation and meet us with hope that cannot fade, perish, or be taken away.
His past, present, and future arrival point us to hope this Christmas season. He is the owner of the clamor of sides, the terrifying headlines, the isolation you feel, the rage and desire for change. He has been a refugee, a marginalized outcast, the center of slander, the receiver of false accusations, the bearer of unjust beatings, the victim of an unfair trial and the victor over death.
He longs for you to let him enter in. He already has. He is Emmanuel, here with us. He is our only hope for change.
May we turn our hearts to him for hope and away from the clamor this Advent season.