A casual look around tells us it’s Christmastime: the decorations, the songs, and the advertisements all point to “the most wonderful time of the year.” But the Church marks time in a different way. The twelve days of Christmas feasting don’t start until the celebration of Jesus’s birth on Dec. 25. For now, the time is Advent.
Advent is no cakewalk. It’s a stark reminder that all is not right in our world. If the church calendar were a 24-hour day, Advent is midnight. We live in dark days that are filled with sorrow, disease, sin, and injustice. We sit alongside the prophets of old, longing for God to speak. Aching for God to act. Waiting for God to come.
Advent means “coming.” This Advent, God has something to say to us–a people who live between two comings. The first marked the Incarnation: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The second will mark his return: when Jesus comes again to make all things new.
Artwork: The Waiting by Rachel Vogel, 2022.
The last couple of years have been trying, to say the least. What does God say to a waiting, weary people? Join us as we walk this Advent road as a waiting people. And let’s receive his words together.
Reflections from the artist, Rachel Vogel:
I asked the Lord to bring words, themes, and images to mind for this piece, and these are the words that emerged: tension, aching, longing, anticipation, the groaning as we sit in promises yet to be fulfilled, questions, doubt, weariness.
The deep blue color signifies longing and loneliness. In this piece there is light and dark which together signify both Jesus’ first coming and his second coming. The darkness is there to capture the tension and chaos while we await His coming. People in the past awaited his first coming at the Incarnation, and they didn’t even have Jesus as physical assurance that he would come eventually. In the present, we await his second coming. I thought about the kind of emotions that one experiences in waiting. There is hopeful anticipation, but it is filled with tension, aching, and longing.
The light imagery is there to capture both comings. His first coming is represented in the figure of Jesus rising from the dirt and the manger. Jesus wears a crown of thorns, and the same pattern as his crown of thorns is repeated beneath Jesus to signify the manger. Within Jesus there is another figure; this alludes to the Old Testament prophet who foretold a mysterious king who would come.
We also see glimpses of his second coming. Jesus’ example is not only where we find our hope to believe for the future, but it also shows us how to live in our waiting (Hebrews 12). He endured his time on earth with his gaze fixed on the second coming. We are to receive our hope, strength, and perseverance from the same glimmer that pierces through the dark, only in bits now, as we experience God’s restorative and redeeming light. Moving up the piece you see a window to image the eternal kingdom of God which we long for. Though we only have access to a window now, the heavy stroke of white at the top of the piece speaks to the promise of the steady coming force of the Kingdom of God, moving in with goodness and peace that cannot be stopped or overcome (Psalm 46, Rev. 21, 22).
Finally, notice the light flowing from that window, leaking into the chaos and our dark world. It flows down and touches Jesus’ shoulder. At the base of the window, I see a sacrificed lamb. This lamb is the bridge of healing from our broken kingdom to the kingdom of light and peace.
Revelation 21:1-27, 22:1-21, Hebrews 12:1-4, Psalm 46, Micah 5:2, Isaiah 7:14, O Come O Come Emmanuel, O Holy Night