2020 has made anticipating anything good very difficult but let us not forget all that was fulfilled.
Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner
On Saturday Nov 28th at 4PM Advent began, ordinary time, the time in which we live, gives way to a time of both remembrance and anticipation. Many of us have placed our manger scenes by now, in our house, the Wise Men begin their long journey to the manger ending at Epiphany on January 6th. At Advent we begin anew, we come back to the story of redemption and look forward to the story of restoration which is playing out before us. The colors change, the green of ordinary time gives way to the purple of Advent, then the pink of Christmas. There has never been a time in my life when I have more looked forward to the season of Advent this this year. 2020 has been a tough year, I am tired, and even though Advent means more time spent working as a pastor, I am looking forward to the reminders of, and anticipation of Advent.
But this year I am looking forward to it for another reason, I am excited to look at Advent and Christmas through the eyes of my daughter.
My daughter is now 21 months old and a bundle of energy and joy, she is now at the absolute best age for wonder and that has been evident even in the first few days of Advent. It started as we were tasting the tree, a pre-lit with LED and Fiber Optics which, when you first turn it on, runs through its “All” setting, flashing the different patterns. When she saw it she immediately got excited and started waving her arms, laughing at the flashing lights. An hour later we were hanging lights in the Living Room, again she loved watching the lights chase around the window and then around the room (I bought about 30 feet too many of lights on accident). Then there was the joy of watching us put ornaments on the tree, both the big tree in the living room and the “Card Tree” that we decorate with Candy-Canes and Christmas Cards people send us.
Then there were the Manger Scenes, we have three, one is a very nice glass one that sits up, out of reach, of little hands. The second is made of kiln fired clay, made by a woman in Nigeria and sent to us via Mercy House “Fair Trade Friday.” The final one, the biggest of the three, is one of the more expensive plastic ones. All three were given to us as gifts and we cherish them. But there is a fourth, a Little People’s Manger which my Mother-In-Law got as a gift for Erin last Christmas which we opened this Christmas as a means to give her something to play with and hopefully deter her from playing with the plastic manger scene. For the last week she has ran out to the Living room in the morning and immediately retrieved this manger scene from the box of toys and said with loud joy: “It’s my Jesus Loves Me!”
Cue the melting of every heart reading this.
But that is how I want to live in Advent this year, with the joy of a 21-month-old running to grab her facsimile of Baby Jesus and yell! “It’s my Jesus loves me!” Because if there is anything the enemy has tried to use 2020 to do, it has been to attempt to steal every ounce of joy and hope and strangle the love for the Church God re-ignited all those years ago in Denver.
But then I open up my bible and I read Matthew 1:1-17 and I think back on the story of Abraham and Isaac, on the story of Ruth and Boaz, of David and God’s promise to him. I am reminded of the Prophet’s who proclaimed a coming birth. I am reminded of the generation, after generation, after generation of faithfulness by God to a feckless and faithless people which the entire arch of biblical history to that point points to, that David will finally have a man to sit on the throne for eternity. Matthew is about to show us a king lying in a manger throne. I read this and I remember, I remember that the Jesus who loved the world so much He gave up His life for it is a fulfillment of a promise made by God. I remember and I start to see Advent as Erin does, there He is, there is my savior, He is lying there in that manger throne. He has come to save the world, to free the oppressed, to show compassion on the lost and broken, I remember, and I am filled with wonder of all that was accomplished and like Luke intended his book to do for Theophilus, I am reminded and encouraged and my faith is strengthened.
But then I go to Isaiah and Malachi and I read about “the Day of the Lord” in which everything will be restored and wicked, who have dominated 2020, will be crushed and trod under and the oppressed will be healed and freed from the bondage of oppression and they will leap like young calves fresh from the stall. That fills me with anticipation, it fills me with longing and with hope, despite my tired and weary eyes, I see what is coming and I can rejoice and hold out just a little bit longer through this momentary suffering. I am reminded what I told my congregation a month ago, that is does not matter what happens in politics, it didn’t matter who won the presidency because God was already working out His plan and men were just that, men, people who wither and fade like grass. The word reminds that God’s word is eternal, that He does not fade, He does not wither, He is not fickle, He keeps His promise and for that reason I can anticipate the second return of YHWH because I remember that He has always kept His promises throughout history, regardless of how bad man gets.
So I can approach Advent like a child, I can look at the reality before me and say: “Okay, this is bad, but remember God has already done so much and look forward, He is going to do so much more.” That gives me the greatest hope of all, the hope that regardless of what men do, God will not let me down or abandon me, I won’t be alienated from Him because He has brought me into Him. I do not have to fear man because I can rest in the truth of what He has done, I can remember what has been accomplished and look forward to what is come. I can anticipate the final establishment of His kingdom on this Earth and that makes me strive harder to reach my neighbors for the Gospel.
This is all a wonder to me, that over 300 times God could promise something and over 300 times Jesus would fulfill that promise, and to think there are more promises to be fulfilled in the ever-nearing future. This is not something you cook up in a lab or pretend you found or even something that can be explained by a Google Search. You can look in wonder at all God has done and be amazed that He still has more to do. You can experience Advent like a child, even during 2020.
To God Be the Glory
Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife and daughter in Northern Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center