Graham W. Hardy, in an address entitled, "Advent has Three Tenses," tells about a night in Australia he spent looking up into the star-filled sky with a friend. In the course of their conversation, Graham asked his friend a question that sometimes comes up in times like those: "Do you believe in God, Sandy?" His friend, Sandy, paused and then answered in a quiet tone: "Yes, I do." But something in the tone of his reply made Graham ask a further question: "But what kind of a God do you believe in?" Again Sandy paused and answered sadly: "You ask me what kind of God I believe in, I'll tell you. He's as far away and as silent as those stars."
Graham writes that after he left Australia he kept asking himself how many others like Sandy "believed in a God who was little more than a religious symbol, a detached deity who would not or could not communicate." Sometimes Sandy's statements seem true. When we begin to think about the suffering and the hunger, the doubts and the fears, the brokenness and sin that are real parts of our existence and our world, God seems distant and silent.
And yet...Advent, which means "coming or arriving," connotes God's coming. It is a time of faithful watching and waiting, of hope and expectation. Advent announces the world-shaking news that God does not reside in some distant galaxy, unaware or unmoved at the trials and tribulations of people. Advent announces the coming of "Emmanuel," God with us. Simply put, Advent means that God came to us in the person of Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ, God came to be a part of the mysteries and complexities of life. But that's not all. It also means that God wishes to come to us anew this Advent season and that Christ will come to us again in all glory and honor.
As we make our final preparations for Christmas this next week, may we open our hearts and minds to the God of Jesus Christ, the one true God who loves us and desires to live in relationship with us. This Advent season may we receive with open arms and grateful hearts God's coming with us.
"Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to divorce her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means "God with us."'" (Matthew 1:18-23)
Rev. Steve Olmstead is the pastor at Chapel by the Lake.