Picture a cold night.
There are no walls nearby to block the wind. It’s hard to remember when the sun set, and harder still to imagine when the sun will rise again. You’ve been sitting at a fire for a while to keep warm, but there are no more logs, and what’s left in the pit is slowly dimming from yellow to orange to red. It starts to feel like the chill blowing across you is seeping into your coat. You want to move to a warmer place, but this is the warmest one around. There’s nothing to do but wait. Stay by the last embers in the night, and wait for dawn.
Season of Advent
When I think about the season of Advent, I’m always fascinated by its roots in the Bible, the expectation of the coming of Christ. The last calls of the minor prophets to Judah and Israel to hold fast to God’s commandments against the Babylonians and the Assyrians, a plea for dedication and a promise of future deliverance. I think about the 400 years of silence between the books of Malachi and Matthew, the uncertainty and the expectation that those remnants of God’s people had nothing but to live with for generations. Yes, waiting is hard when the world around us is busy and demanding our time and attention. But I often think that waiting is even harder when there’s little else to think about but the waiting.
There are always some parallels to draw between the people of God in the Bible and ourselves in the modern world. We see ourselves in the disciples of Jesus, or the early church, or the twelve tribes of ancient Israel. But consider what it means to see ourselves in the 400 years of silence, in the many waiting generations between God’s promise and the fulfillment of that promise. Like the remnants, we are waiting for Emmanuel. Like the remnants, we have trouble seeing when the long-expected fulfillment will come. And so in the quiet hours between a dozen different obligations and expectations, there is little to do but wait.
The Cold Night of Waiting
The cold night of waiting draws long, and at times the promise feels distant. We hold close to the embers, the fire of passion and worship set by the early church that sometimes feels like it grows dimmer and dimmer as the night draws longer. The chill of the world feels more and more intolerable for how little it resembles God’s truth. But the only thing to do is to hold close to the embers, and hold closer still. We turn to nothing else, and we hold that warmth as an assurance. Dawn is coming. It was promised a very long time ago. Just wait, and watch the horizon.