Advent 2: The Intimations of Redemption

john the baptist stained glass

Christmas can be a season of hurried frenzy. The stores are filled with people looking for the best deals. Days are spent racking our brains to figure out the best gift for spouse, children, family, and friends. Deadlines to meet at work by the end of the year, all that we can head out of the office for a week to “enjoy” the Christmas holidays.

We have been trained to hurry, rush, and stress during the holiday season.

We’re left frazzled, needing a holiday break after the holidays.

But the season of Advent arrives asking us to slow down. To remember the patient processes of our God. His promises cannot be nuked in the microwave. He’s not always giving us 5 simple guidelines to follow to get our best life now.

The season of Advent reminds us there is a waiting process.

It’s hard, to be honest.

Waiting.

Instant self-gratification is ours on just about every level – from food to gadgets to entertainment to sexual pleasure and more. If we can’t get it the exact way we want it (“have it your way,” as Burger King reminds us), then we’re happy to find a secondary path to pleasure, even if it isn’t quite as good as the primary source.

When it comes to the redemption of God, there is a waiting. Patient waiting. That’s the story of history, which means it’s our story too. I even remarked in my last post that it can be a very painful waiting.

The people of God had been waiting a very long time for their redemption. Hundreds and hundreds of years. That’s a long time to chip away at a people’s hope. And it had. There were plenty of times when they had taken up things in their own hands.

When we turn to the pages of our New Testament, to the gospel beginning, it is easy to jump on in to the story of Jesus – the angelic announcement of his coming birth, the magi, the shepherds, the newborn Jesus. We possibly feel it’s our right rush to the excitement of the story, the redemption of God’s people.

We’ve been waiting long enough, it’s ok to hurry to the fulfilled promise!

But that’s not how the story works out. There is still some waiting, even as we sense God’s redemption drawing near.

There is a story of another child – his own angelic announcement, the father’s story, the mother’s story, this other baby’s birth.

Before we get to Jesus, we have John. He is a kind of pre-promise to the redemption of God that is about to unfold. But he is part of the story. And he is a hopeful part of the story.

At times, our wait is so drawn out that we start to look for something, just a little intimation that reminds us that God’s salvation is on the horizon. We’d be happy, not with an unbridled fulfillment of the purposes of God, but a simple inkling that a corner is about to be turned, a mountain is about to be removed, fruit is about to be bore. Something that will move us to hope in the midst of pain, move us to joy in the midst of sorrow, move us to peace in the midst of a bitter cold winter season of life.

Give me something! Give us something!

During the Advent season, the story of John the Baptist lays out the hope that, though it’s not yet the time for the full redemption of God, he is still at work in the midst of the waiting. Little “pre-promises,” if you will, will be offered to remind us that salvation and deliverance are nearly within our grasp.

I need to know that. I’ve been waiting.

We need to know that. We’ve been waiting.

We need the story of John the Baptist, even before the story of Jesus. In actuality, John is part of the story of Jesus.

Let us remember together. Let us keep waiting. Our hope for redemption and the promise of God is good and sure. It will come.

The psalmist reminds us:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth. (121:1-2)

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