It is within a first century world dominated by the Roman Empire, where religious, philosophical and political trends are taking their course and the imperial cult claimed the emperor as Lord who created peace, that the believers are waiting for the Messiah. They hold on to the prophets’ promises. There would be no end to the restoring reign of this Prince of Peace.
While believers expectantly look to God, He is looking to Mary. His global redemption plan comes into focus in a teenager and a seed of promise. As C.S. Lewis reflects: “The whole thing narrows and narrows, until it comes down to a little point, small as the point of a spear – a Jewish girl and her prayers.” Blessed is she who, embracing the pain, discovers how her life fits into the bigger picture. Blessed is she who, facing shame, incomprehension and rejection, believes that what the Lord said to her will be accomplished.
Simultaneously, two elderly people are also waiting for the promised salvation. Praying night and day, year in, year out. Holding on to a promise, Simeon and Anna would recognise the Christ in this baby born amidst the terror and worldly strife - the salvation prepared in the sight of all people. Yet, as John reflects, the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness didn’t comprehend it; though the world was made through him, it didn't know him; he came to his own, but his own didn't receive him (John 1:5, 10–11).
This advent, while seismic economic, political, religious and secular trends take their course, we focus again on the prophetic promises as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus and we anticipate the return of Christ the King. Hopefully, we’ll discover further how our lives fit into the bigger picture and how to live faithfully in its light.
As we are expectantly looking to God, He is looking to us. His plans will disturb the peace, inconvenience our lives and birth new songs. Mary knew that God her Saviour would overthrow strongholds, remember kindness and fill the hungry with good things. He will guide our feet on a way of peace and justice to give light to those sitting in darkness. The world is waiting for it. In fact, it’s standing on tip-toe (Romans 8:23).
Praying for restoration and yearning for God’s in-breaking grace in the darkness of their exile, the psalmist glimpses a vision of the new life the people of God ached for.
“Surely His salvation is near those who fear Him, that His glory may dwell in our land…Righteousness goes before Him and prepares the way for His steps.” (Psalm 85)
Nothing is as revolutionary as God’s grace - He will speak a fresh word to us. Moreover, this Advent psalm speaks of God’s glory coming once more to dwell in the land.
Expecting God’s in-breaking in this world is an active waiting - a revolutionary waiting. So whether we wait in our tents and pray on the steps of St Paul’s for a more just world, or yearn for grace in our heart and home, He will shed light from beyond our world into our world.
Marijke Hoek, Coordinator Forum for Change