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Anticipation and presence at Advent

Advent starts today. It’s a time of waiting and mystery, but we know what it is we’re anticipating: the coming of Christ. Christ has come. We know who he is, and what he did. The mystery is not around his identity or his work. The mystery lies in the why and the how: why would God so love the world to send his son? How can it be that God is truly with us? We wait as those looking forward to an anniversary, not as those looking forward to the unknown.

I feel like the last few months have given our family a great opportunity to reflect on the meaning of Advent. I’m not talking about looking forward to the birth of our second son. I’m thinking of Elliot and my waiting for Arthur’s arrival from Tanzania to be with us in Australia. Counting down to his arrival was different from anticipating the birth of our baby, because we both knew Arthur. There was a concreteness to our anticipation. I was thinking about how good Arthur is at doing wonder and awe with Elliot. I was looking forward to handing over hanging the washing on the line and giving my injured shoulders a rest. I suspect Elliot was anticipating a bit more wrestling in his life. I remembered how Arthur makes me laugh. Our knowledge of him gave our anticipation of his arrival a different character. Rain for Roots sing:

When the one you love
Leaves on a plane
And you know that she’ll
Come back someday
It’s hard to wait
It’s hard to wait
So hard to wait

This is how Advent is as well. We are remembering the arrival of someone we already know. That heightens our sense of anticipation, because we already know his love, his wisdom, his beauty, and his saving work. That knowledge draws our attention forward as well, because this one we know is coming again. As we celebrate his first coming, remember who he is is, we are confident and excited for his second coming as well.

There is gonna be a day
Every low valley He will raise
There is gonna be a day
Hills and mountains gonna be made plain
There is gonna be a day
Winding roads gonna be made straight

Thanks to 21st century technology, we have had opportunities to communicate and speak with Arthur while we’ve been on separate continents, but in some ways this makes the ache worse. It has a semblance of relationship, but it’s missing one vital aspect: his presence. Elliot can show off his new skills to Arthur on skype, but Arthur misses the surprise and joy that comes from witnessing the impromptu cute things that he comes out with. You can catch up on a day’s events over email, but there’s a distance brought by being told about something rather than actually living it and sharing it together. There are things you can say with a look that no emoticon can manage, and no number of comforting words makes up for the human-to-human touch of a hug. There’s something unreal about trying to daily life together when you’re not doing the very earthy everyday things of eating together, washing dirty laundry, or tripping over one another’s lazily placed feet.

At Advent, we celebrate not just God’s thought for us, but his physicality in our world. ‘God with us’ is no mere platitude, for God was one of us, dirty laundry and all. He had a sense of humour, he touched people and was touched by them, he was there for the things that came up as well as the special occasions. God is with us by his Spirit, and yet, we long for something more still.

Comfort, comfort, comfort, comfort
It’s hard to wait
So hard to wait


Image credit: Nikola Jelenkovic

Categories: Uncategorized Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

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