December 6, 2020

Our journey through Advent each year is an exercise in waiting. We wait and prepare to celebrate Christmas, to remember God’s love for us that spills over into the birth of a child. We also wait for the return of the Lord, at the end of our lives, and at the end of the world.

Waiting is a little more challenging these days. We have all been waiting since March for the pandemic to be over and for life to return to normal. Like looking forward to Christmas and the great celebration of God coming among us in flesh and blood, we look forward to the great day when we can celebrate the end of the pandemic.

The news of the past few weeks about the development of vaccines has given us hope in our waiting. We have also seen the development of better treatment for those who contract COVID-19. So, our waiting for a vaccine is sprinkled with hope even as we wait.

In the long history of salvation, from the time of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Jacob, to the time of Moses and the kings and the prophets, God’s people have learned to hope, even in the midst of struggle. Since the time of David, God’s people looked forward to a new king who would be Messiah and restore what had been lost.

In what the scriptures call “the fullness of time,” the Angel Gabriel was sent to a young girl in an out of the way place in the Roman empire. In that visit and the young girl’s “yes,” everything changed. The birth of Jesus, the Word-Made-Flesh, and his life, death, and resurrection altered history and all of creation forever.

The hopeful waiting found its fulfillment in an unimaginable way. God’s love was so enormous that he sent his own Son, to become one with us. The greatest prophets of Israel could not have imagined, could not have hoped for, such a “hands-on” approach to loving us and saving us.

The waiting in hopeful expectation was fulfilled beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. The idea that God would come among us in flesh and blood was such a radical idea that it is no wonder that people, especially some religious leaders in Israel were caught off guard. They couldn’t grasp God acting in this way. And so, the Word-Made-Flesh was rejected and executed.

But that was not the final word. God’s love, made flesh in Jesus, would not be defeated by death. On the contrary, that love conquered death once and for all time. As many came to believe in the word preached by Jesus’ closest followers, the community of faith grew and now numbers more than two and a half billion people.

But while the coming of Jesus is the culmination of the story of salvation, it is not the end of the story. And that brings us to Advent. We know that all is not well in the world or in our lives. We know that hunger and disease, war and poverty, selfishness and sin still hold sway. We know that experiences like the pandemic we are living through can lay bare both the goodness and the brokenness of our humanity.

What we wait for in Advent, with expectation and hope, is the coming of Jesus again. We wait for the final consummation of his reign, where the justice and love of God will conquer everything that is dark and evil in our lives and in the life of the world.

So, Advent is a time to look back and remember God’s love and faithfulness in coming among us in flesh and blood. And it is a time to look forward in the hope of his coming again. Experiences like this pandemic we are living through can remind us of how fragile our humanity is.

As we wait in hope for a vaccine and better and better treatment for those who contract the virus, may our waiting be grounded in the assurance of God’s abiding love. It is a love that has been present throughout all history. It is a love that entered our history at a particular place and time in the person of Jesus. It is a love that waits to embrace us at the end of our lives, and embrace all of creation at the end of time.

Happy Advent!
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni