Monday, December 21, 2015

Already But Not Yet

Yesterday was the fourth and last Sunday of Advent this year, the time of waiting and expectation and anticipation as all of Creation groans with labor pains for the coming Christ.

But the waiting is not over.

This year, Christmas falls on Friday, which means the faithful have five days from this final Sunday to continue waiting. Five more days of feeling the baby Jesus kick around in the womb. Five more days of figuring out travel plans. Five more days of labor pains. Five more days....

It's kind of nice, really. Because as Christians, we know that the coming of Christ is very much like this. We know that what seems to be the end is only the beginning, and what seems to be the beginning is the promise of the end, and that there's all this time in between that we have to account for, no matter how the story seems to be unfolding.

We know that Christ has come; the newborn babe is fresh in our manger. But we know, too, that He's also still to come. We've spent this Advent season preparing for Him, and we know the day is close...but Advent, at least as the church recognizes it in four Sundays, is over Jesus. Not yet.

Not for another five long days.

It's the "already but not yet" that we constantly live in. It's the world torn between the birth and the coming, between all the hope and the expectation and the anticipation...and finally seeing Jesus come into this world. It's living on the edge of our seats, then taking a deep breath and sinking back into them a little bit because five more days feels like the longest stretch of time in all the world. Because the time between now and that most incredible moment seems to stretch on forever before us. 

It's coming, but it's not coming fast enough. 

And what are we supposed to do with ourselves for five more days? What are we supposed to do while we continue to wait, even though our waiting seems to be over? This is the tension of living between the Cross and the Coming. This is the tension of living between a babe born in Bethlehem and a Savior coming on the clouds. What do we do? 

We do what we're doing anyway. We spend this time relishing our loved ones, celebrating our communities. We spend this time opening our homes and opening our gifts and sharing both this time and these memories with those we love (and those who love us). We spend this time blessed to have it, joyfully anticipating the Christ's return to this world while at the same time celebrating the baby born in the manger.

There's something special about Christmas on Friday this year. It leaves us all this time between the Advent waiting and the babe's first cries to contemplate what it means to live here in the already but not yet. It means....

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