When my wife first gave me the news that I was going to be a father, I was terrified.
I have no words to describe the power of that moment, of realizing that a unique combination of DNA had begun the irreversible process of duplication, and that a whole person—with volition, hopes, dreams, and a future—would be brought into the world because of it. The weight of responsibility was almost crippling, but the beauty of the moment left me speechless.
My wife and I now find ourselves in a period of waiting. Our son is scheduled to arrive in early Spring, but we have no way of determining exactly when. Still, we find ourselves preparing our home for our newest family member.
This experience has made the season of Advent all the more special to me. For those of you who might be unfamiliar, Advent is the span of four weeks leading up to Christmas, where Christians take time to reflect on the birth of Christ, in remembrance and anticipation.
We remember because Christ has come. The Incarnate Word took on flesh, born in a shack among stinking animals, helplessly dependent on his mother bearing her breast to feed him. 2,000 years later, we imagine his tiny hands, which would grow to bear the marks of his crucifixion, grasping at Mary’s fingers as she held him—the same way that most babies do.
We celebrate Advent so that we may never forget this image. That God became a man in the most humble of forms, in the ultimate act of solidarity with his creation. The same God that ordered the universe, the maker of every galaxy in the cosmos, now dependent on a teenage girl and her carpenter husband to change his diapers.
Our rememberance should lead us to adoration. God did this for us, to be the savior to the world.
And yet, advent is also about anticipation. Because although Christ has already come, he has promised us that he will come again. And he will wipe away every tear, and there will be no more death.
Revelation 21 provides a beautiful image for all who are in Christ to look forward to, but anticipation is not merely being excited about the future. It is not to sit by, passively waiting for the future to arrive—and it’s only when I found out that I’m expecting a child of my own that I realized this.
As my wife and I look forward to the arrival of our son, our anticipation leads us to action. Our guest bedroom has been converted into a nursery. We’ve painted the walls, put together his crib, and even bought clothes for him to wear. We do these things because we know that he’s coming, and we want to be ready when he gets here.
We’ve also bought books to read, and we’ve begun the internal process of preparing for parenthood. We’re learning what to expect, how a child’s brain develops, and anything else that might prove useful in our new future.
Even now, I find myself regularly wandering into my son’s bedroom, looking at the furniture we’ve already put together and wondering what it will be like when he is present. I dream about who he is, and who he will become, even though he is still a stranger to me. I stand by his crib and pray for him, even though he’s still months from sleeping there.
Growing up, I had always thought that being “ready” for Christ to return meant diligently eradicating every specific sin I could think of from my daily life. The churches that I attended spent a majority of their time preaching the imminence of the rapture, warning us against being “left behind.” This led me to fear the return of Christ, rather than to hope for it.
I reflect now, on the martyrs throughout church history, crying out “maranatha!” The church fathers and mothers would cling to this word in the face of persecution, assuring themselves that their torture under Roman rule was temporary, and that one day their Lord would return to save them. I can think of no greater context than this to capture the hope and anticipation of Christ’s return.
We should certainly strive for holiness in our personal lives, but anticipation requires action. If all that I did to prepare for the birth of my son was read books on parenting, I wouldn’t be prepared at all. My son would have to sleep naked on the floor of my guest bedroom.
Christ is coming, and we should prepare for his return in the world around us. We should wipe away the tears of our neighbors, knowing that Christ will bring a world where there is no weeping. We should care for one another, in sickness, pain, and death, knowing that Christ is coming back to reconcile these things.
We must prepare the world for the return of our King, as his royal priesthood, by being a people of hope, peace, joy, and love—in remembrance and anticipation.