In the past he humbled the land . . . but in the future he will honor Galilee . . . (Isaiah 9:1).
At its core, Advent is a restless season.
This restlessness is characteristic of a life that is neither here nor there; it cannot be content with what is, but what will be has yet to fully take shape. This restlessness is stirred in that disconnect between our seasonal vocabulary of peace and joy and good will, and the undeniable absence of those things in our world. Advent restlessness is rooted in the conviction that something has to change, and that someday it will.
To those who had been brought low, Isaiah promised a future exaltation, a coming honor. In their past God had humbled them. Isaiah’s hope-filled message announced that God would not leave them that way. The darkness in which they walked would yield to the gift of God’s light. He spoke his message, however, to a people living between the times, between yesterday’s humiliation and tomorrow’s coming honor.
If this time of year finds you between the times, looking back on something that brought you low and waiting on something that will lift you up – then you’re in the true spirit of the season, whether it feels that way or not.
Maybe the economy has already done its worst to you. The job you loved isn’t there anymore and now you’re wondering about what will come next. Maybe the relationship that seemed to hold so much promise never came to fruition in something that would last. Maybe your suspicions about the persistent fatigue you’ve lived with have been confirmed. Test results have revealed what you’re up against.
Advent is the in-between season. It is a restlessness that refuses to draw conclusions about life too soon, too quickly. Advent people live between the humbling past and the future with honor, confident that things are going to change. That confidence is not mere positive thinking. It is grounded in God’s character. Things are going to change, and the zeal of the Lord will do it.
God is zealous for his glory and for your good. That might sound strange to you, but it’s true. Isaiah makes repeated references to God’s zeal. This is a part of God’s very nature, God’s personhood. God burns with zeal.
We survive the waiting season because God’s determination is far stronger than our own.
The zeal of the Lord will bring about all that the prophet sees: lifted burdens, ended wars, bourgeoning hope. God will do this in his zeal. It is his work to do, not yours. And that zeal is how you can know that things are going to change.
So don’t draw conclusions about your life right now. Wait. Wait on what our zealous God will do. Love between the times . . . and enter the spirit of the season.
Grant us grace, O God, to live between the times. Sustain us in that place between being brought low and being lifted up again. We yearn for things to change. We yearn for light, and we look to you to bring it to us. Rise up in your zeal and do for us what we could never do for ourselves, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.