Advent 2023, Week 1

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”

— Psalm 13: 1 (ESV)

“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?”

— Romans 8:23, 24 (ESV)

“How long, O Lord, how long?” Many of us have asked that question over and over. In this season of Advent, our longing for final reconciliation becomes vivid. Surrounded by suffering, warfare, danger, turmoil, chaos, and a culture of death, we cry, “How long, O Lord?” The Church, in fact, all of creation, groans with pregnant anticipation of the full manifestation of Jesus’ reconciling and re-creating incarnation.

And we wait.

Waiting certainly can be a patiently passive posture. But, there is another sense of the word “wait,” related to the watchful service performed by a food server or hospitality attendant. This more active waiting finds expression in our participation in service of God’s mission of reconciling the entire created order to himself.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux had the perspective that we can ponder three advents of the Lord: 1) the Nativity of the incarnate God in Jesus Christ at Bethlehem; 2) the Second Coming (“Parousia”) of Jesus in glory at the end of time; and 3) the ongoing “coming” of the presence of Jesus by the Holy Spirit to rule in our hearts here and now. This last sense is at the very foundation of the Advent experience. When we take the time to just be in the real presence of God, we enter into the fullness of the spirituality of Advent. Then renewed, we respond in active mission.

So, this Advent, while we wait quietly, passively, attentively, let us also wait actively, joyfully, serving God and one another through his infinite love poured out extravagantly in and through us.

May you and yours have a most blessed Advent!

The Lord be with you,

James R. Hart, President

About the author

Dr. James R. Hart served as President of the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies from 2007-2024.